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Returning To The Office – 7 Things We’ve Noticed

Many organisations we support are starting to return their teams to the office. In a recent webinar, we shared with them some ways to make this transition simple, safe and smooth. Here are seven observations we made…

1. Some people are anxious about going back. And others who’ve been in the office all along may be anxious about people returning. To help keep everyone safe and comfortable, an organisation should: provide adequate ventilation; clean more often; turn away people with COVID-19 symptoms; enable people to ‘check in’ with each other and team leaders; and communicate effectively with staff. 

2. Leaders must aim to create a culture where everyone feels valued and respected. One way to achieve this is to be open about the decisions you want to make and be willing to hear the input of your team. This may also require courage to review decisions that were made earlier in the pandemic. 

“Try to increase the opportunities for random unplanned encounters between colleagues. It is in these ‘serendipitous’ encounters that creative and insightful processes often occur.”

3. Coronavirus has changed how people think about risk in the workplace. We’ve all been operating on the basis that to reduce the risk of contracting the virus we should work from home. People with medical conditions like COPD may want to continue to restrict their time in the office. Where a disabled employee refuses to attend work, medical advice should be sought – for example from one of our Occupational Health professionals.

4. Most employees would prefer a flexible working model in future. This ensures that some meetings happen face-to-face but staff have the option to work remotely on certain days. If you have adopted a ‘hybrid model’, try to increase the opportunities for random unplanned encounters between colleagues. It is in these ‘serendipitous’ encounters that creative and insightful processes often occur. These are hard to replicate virtually. 

5. Remember that members of your team may have lost a staff member to Covid. They might not have been together in person since their passing. It’s important to acknowledge such instances and consider what can be done to support affected team members. Good communication allows you to create an environment that builds a sense of belonging where team members are allowed to acknowledge loss and grieve together. 

6. Some staff may be suffering from Long Covid. They may still feel tired, short of breath and experience “brain fog”. They could be apprehensive about returning to the office, and so here are some adjustments you can make:

  • Alter the number of days or hours they work
  • Offer them shorter days, more breaks, later starts or earlier finishes
  • Change working hours to avoid travelling at peak times
  • Give them time off work to attend medical appointments
  • Provide access to a rest area
  • Continue home working (for all or part of the week)
  • Have a phased return to work

7. Your team might look quite different now. New staff may have joined. Old staff may have left. And some may be returning from furlough. And so it’s good to ‘start again’ – consider an induction for everyone to the new working environment. This can help everyone feel included and part of the team. Provide space for staff to understand the organisational priorities, their job roles and expectations. Again, clear communication is essential. Listen to your team’s concerns and comments – make them feel valued and respected.

If you want support with making this transition in your own organisation, we’d be happy to talk! Click below and make an appointment.

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