Vaccination numbers are climbing and lockdown is nearly over, so it’s time to start gearing up for a return to the office if you haven’t already. We’ve already talked about how you and your employees can get back to the office and thrive, and it’s important that people feel happy to be back in the workplace so they reach their full potential.
There are some things that you can do as an employer to help employees feel comfortable going back to the office. Without them, you could come across like you aren’t taking the situation seriously, increasing hesitancy around working from the office. It’s your duty to your employees and the business to be responsible and look out for people’s wellbeing.
Are employees expected to be socially distanced? Do they need to wear masks? Is there a one-way system? These are the sorts of questions your people will be thinking about when they return to the office. The best thing you can do as an employer is communicate clearly and openly about your expectations of them.
Leaving employees in the dark will only lead to more anxiety about going into work. So, before you have your employees make a full return, flesh out a plan that works for your business. Many factors will influence your rules. If the team spends a lot of time together in close proximity, it might be more suitable to wear masks when seated, but not if they work independently in cubicles. Figure this out before bringing everyone back.
At this point, hand sanitiser stations are a given. It’s an easy way to immediately display that you’re considering your employees’ safety and are dedicating resources to it. While it isn’t the final solution to stopping the spread of coronavirus, better hygiene is never a bad thing. You should still encourage staff to wash their hands as it is more effective than sanitiser, but it’s a good place to start.
Ventilation is key to ensuring a safe workplace for everyone, so make the most of it when you can. Luckily, we’re heading into summer, so it shouldn’t be a problem to crack the windows and get some fresh air. Aim for natural ventilation where possible, but air conditioning that doesn’t recirculate the air is a great alternative.
We’ve come a long way since COVID tests were hard to get hold of. You can now easily buy lateral flow tests online for workplace use. They take around 30 minutes to get a result and can detect the virus in asymptomatic people, so it’s worth getting your hands on some and introducing a workplace testing regime.
By doing so, no one is worrying if their desk neighbour is infecting them, and people feel safe at work. Experts have discouraged against the use of temperature checks as they are not a reliable detection method, so go and pick up some testing kits!
Many employees will be nervous about a full return to the office for a number of reasons. It could be that they’re worried about childcare obligations, catching the virus at work, or having to get public transport. A large part of productivity at work is influenced by mental health – forcing an employee to come in and spend the day anxious might not be the best idea.
Show that you’re looking out for your staff by allowing them some flexibility in their schedule. You don’t need to offer fully remote work if it’s not suitable. Have that conversation with your team and come to an agreement. Smaller teams may need fixed days to work from the home and office, but larger businesses could get away with a greater level of flexibility.
Traffic light wristband
A recent example of an employer going above and beyond for employees comes from A-One Insurance Group. Managers introduced a traffic light wristband system so staff could display their level of anxiety about the risk of infection. A red wristband indicates high levels of anxiety, yellow is somewhat worried, and green is none. What is great about this is that it encourages employees who are a little concerned about infection to come back to the office with the knowledge that they won’t be pushed out of their comfort zone.
This method immediately makes it clear to other employees how you should interact with them – maybe don’t try and hug someone with a red wristband… It’s a great idea, especially for larger teams and offices.
Welcome back gifts
All of the aforementioned things will benefit your employee’s mental health and physical safety, but that is not the sum total of a person. A wonderful way to mark your return to the office can be something as simple as a goodie bag filled with small gifts, buying snacks or lunch, or even some company merchandise.
Even a simple thank you card will help everybody settle in, because you’re speaking to them as a real person, not necessarily through the lens of an employer-employee relationship. This will show your staff that you know that coming back into the office is hard for some people and you appreciate the effort that everyone is making.
It’s your job as an employer to make sure your employees can be their best at work. If you invite staff back to the office half-heartedly and without much care and attention, it’s doomed to fail. Not only are you putting yourself and staff at a greater risk of catching COVID-19, but you’ll also probably find that employees aren’t flourishing on the job.
If you are looking for a flexible and customisable office space where your employees can work safely and effectively, check out our available office space.