Companies have already ushered in a new year, but the scars that 2020 left are still not forgotten. People were eventually able to adapt to remote work and restricted mobility due to lockdowns and rising cases of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Many have also learned to live with the virus lurking out there.
Living with the virus also meant going back to the office, like how some countries have decided to experiment in resuming office work. If your company is one of them, there will understandably be another adjustment period for your staff after spending almost a year working from their homes.
In addition, the reality is that there is still a pandemic, and it is your responsibility to make sure your employees are not risking their health every time they step out of their homes to report for work.
Transitioning your employees back in the workplace is just as important as helping them find their footing at home. Below are some great tips your HR department or recruitment agency in Manila can help set things up.
1. Build a return-to-work plan
Before any of your employees can think about stepping foot in the office again, HR must set clear guidelines on what they can expect. This step ensures that your staff has something to anchor onto—a clear direction to follow once they come back. It can include, but is not limited to:
- A survey regarding their feelings on returning to work
- Special requests they may want to suggest to make office work less intimidating
- Guidelines on working hours (in and out times and days of the week)
- New office layouts and social distancing conditions
- How many people are allowed in one room at a time, especially during meetings
- Dedicated sanitation areas, like alcohol sprays, foot baths, and more
If your office cannot accommodate distancing the desks for all employees, it is wiser to have departments rotate their office days to avoid large crowds in one room. Some departments may come in less often than others, and these are the kinds of things that need to appear in a detailed return-to-work plan.
2. Make the office safe
The office should be a safe space for your employees to conduct their work, not one that cultivates anxiety. Make it a point to show them that you care for their health and safety by enlisting professional cleaning services that can routinely disinfect high-traffic areas and surfaces. Install foot bars on doors, have contactless request forms, and entertain office improvement suggestions.
If your cleaning standards were high before, it should be much higher now. Ensure your staff and visibly see those efforts so that they can relax in the office.
3. Focus on good hygiene
Of course, upholding the highest standard of hygiene and safety is a team effort. Encourage and remind your employees to be careful and not to be complacent. For some companies, departments could be seeing each other again after a long time, which could momentarily cause caution fatigue–a feeling of getting tired in following the health and safety protocols due to its prolonged period.
While vaccines are underway, until everyone in the office has been inoculated, there is no guarantee that the virus can be contained. Until then, have a mandatory policy of always having your masks on and drill the regular handwashing habit, especially when they touch office property
4. Aim for productivity, but be understanding
Regularly monitor how your employees are performing in the office. It will be nothing like working during pre-pandemic times, so extend patience and understanding if you feel like things are taking longer than usual to do or that your employees cannot find their groove. This behavior will initially be expected, and it may last until the pandemic has ended.
Ask your employees about their goals and targets, and help them find the most comfortable way to reach them. Prepare yourself for varied answers, as 92% of employees now prefer a hybrid work model—that is, some form of flexibility for where they work vs. being restricted to work from home only or work in the office only.
5. Offer emotional support
Besides caring for their physical health and the surrounding areas they will be working in, the HR’s job is to extend support for their employee’s mental and emotional well-being.
COVID-19 took a toll on many—you may even have employees who experienced having the disease firsthand or had a family member or friend gravely affected by it. For others, they may have developed sheer terror or anxiety to even step out of the house, and being in the office could be triggering for them.
Regularly checking in on your employees and giving them the resources they need to survive this delicate time is necessary.
6. Communicate openly and frequently
The pandemic has been almost a year-long developing news story. Sometimes, outbreaks in certain countries reach new records, making it unsafe to report to the office again. In case you need to revert to full remote work, make sure you have a backup plan and strategy.
Always update your employees with your plans for their well-being, so they are not surprised by last-minute changes, additions, or requests. It is even better to loop them in on decisions that will affect the workplace; hence, it will be great if your communication lines are always open to let them feel that they can approach you any time.
Employee Wellness Comes First
Prioritizing your employee wellness is the best strategy for going back to the office. Companies are operating under new circumstances, but leading with empathy will always be one of the best methods to support your staff. Work with a recruitment agency today to assist you in planning and implementing effective ways to help your employees bounce back.