Are you itching to return to the office and get back to business as usual? Are you counting down the days until you and your team don’t have to rely on Zoom for a friendly catchup? Don’t worry, you’re by no means the only one.
In a recent study by YouGov, which surveyed over 2000 office workers in the UK, 57% said they missed having in-person conversations with their colleagues and 49% said they missed the relationships they had forged with those in the office. After two previous lockdowns, it seems that many are now eager to regain a sense of normality, particularly when it comes to working.
With lockdown restrictions set to lift by the end of February and vaccinations beginning to roll out, it hopefully shouldn’t be too long before you and your team can start returning to your beloved office space. But before this inevitable return can happen, you need to plan how to transition your team back into the workplace in a way that is safe and stress-free for all.
So, to help you get started with your transition plans, here are our top tips for welcoming your team back into the office after lockdown 3.0.
While many of us want life to go back to normal as soon as possible, returning to the workplace could be overwhelming for some members of your team. They could be fearful of the risks that come from using public transport again or being in an environment outside of their homes. Alternatively, they could be caring for vulnerable relatives or shielding themselves due to their own health conditions.
Whatever the reason, it’s important that you’re understanding and empathetic of your team’s feelings. Even though you don’t know exactly when it will happen, organise an open conversation with each member of your team to find out how they feel about returning to the office. This will not only give them an opportunity to share their concerns but also gives you the chance to explore different solutions before you return.
There’s a strong possibility that you might not be able to go back to the office immediately after lockdown, in which case your team should be encouraged to continue working from home if they are able to.
Rethink your office layout
Before you open the doors to your office once again, you might need to rethink its layout allow for social distancing and reduced contact between your team. If you haven’t already, you need to carry out a COVID-19 risk assessment to determine what changes need to be made, particularly to the layout, before your employees can safely come back.
Ask yourself whether the desks can be spaced out to keep your employees two metres apart or if you need to temporarily move furniture out to make this possible. If you’re short on space, could sitting everyone back-to-back be a better solution? Another thing you might want to consider is introducing a one-way system, so your employees can walk around the office without crossing paths with anyone else. Putting up signs and floor stickers can be a great way of reminding people to follow the new layout and walkway.
Create a new cleaning rota
Another key aspect of a COVID-19 risk assessment is cleanliness. Regularly cleaning an office can be an effective way of preventing the spread of the virus and keeping you and your team healthy. So, start by creating a new cleaning rota that encourages daily cleaning of work areas and equipment. This should also extend to areas that are touched regularly such as keyboards, drinks machines and door handles.
You can also enhance your office’s cleanliness by encouraging your team to clear their workspaces at the end of each day and by limiting the use of high-touch items such as printers or whiteboards.
Having your office deep cleaned or hiring a cleaner to visit your workplace each week could also be a fantastic option. Also make sure you stock up on supplies such as hand sanitiser, anti-bacterial cleaners and wipes and soaps to help your employees feel safe and healthy whilst at work.
Consider staggering your team’s start times
Rather than have everyone come in at the same time and meet at the entrance of your office, why not optimise your social distancing measures by staggering your employee’s start times. That way they can enter the office safely and without getting too close to their colleagues.
To achieve this, you’ll have to create a rota that clearly shows the times you need everyone to be in. For example, you could separate their start times by 15 minutes or ask half of your team to come in early or on certain days, while the other half can come in to cover the later part of the day.
After the previous lockdowns, some businesses split their workforce into two teams, each of which worked three days in the office over a six-day working week. The workplace would then be deep cleaned after one team has left and before the other comes in. Having fewer people in the office all at once can naturally make it easier to social distance, so think about this when creating your new rota.
Don’t forget to keep your team informed of new developments
One of the biggest things you can do to help keep your employees stress-free and confident about coming back into the office is by keeping them informed of new developments. Keep them regularly updated about the changes you’re making around the office and how their workdays will differ moving forward, even if they’re only small. This will again provide them with another opportunity to voice concerns, but more importantly, will make them feel more included in the process.
Even though you don’t know when you will all be back in the office just yet, it’s vitally important that you communicate with your team now, rather than there being surprises when you go back into the office. Your honesty and openness about the changes to the office will remove all the mystery and can provide some clarity over your expectations when it comes to social distancing and hygiene in the workplace.
While these tips won’t have changed much since the last lockdown, we hope it’s given you food for thought as you start making your plan for returning to the office- whenever it may be. Trust us, getting prepared now will make the whole transition far easier for all.