Many businesses are planning to return to the workplace after employees have been working from home or been on furlough for the past 18 months. It’s fair to say that everyone, no matter the industry, has faced struggles and challenges during this time. So the prospect of returning to the workplace for employers and employees is exciting, as many have found this time lonely and rather difficult. But, this change could cause some feelings of anxiety and uncertainty for some. It’s important that employers provide support for employees, to make this time as easy as possible.
Here are some tips on planning the ‘return to work’ after remote working or being on furlough:
- Early contact with employees. Line managers should be in regular contact with their team, especially when planning a big impactful change. Giving prior notice of any changes will give employees time to prepare.
- Be positive, caring, and reassuring. If the last 18 months have taught us anything, it’s that we should all be kinder. So conversations with employees should give them all the facts, but also provide them with support. Putting them at ease, and encouraging them to embrace this change.
- Communicate shifts or work patterns early on. This gives workers time to plan ahead and ensure they know when they are required to work.
- Get to know your employees. Building a rapport with them makes them feel valued and cared for. This will give them the confidence to have open and honest discussions with you.
- Double-check people know door codes or their employee number. Yes, this one is important, but often forgotten. If a factory worker has been off for 18 months, they may have forgotten simple numbers which they used every day to move around the warehouse.
- Make sure workers have the equipment they need and it is in a good condition. Construction, railway, and factory works may require protective workwear or tools to complete daily tasks. If this has remained unused for a long period, check that these still pass the health and safety criteria you have.
- Send out your health and safety policy as a refresher. When working in higher-risk industries, health and safety are very important. Re-educating employees will give them a refresher of important information which is vital for a safe working environment.
- Check all required assessments and medicals are up to date. Booking these in ahead of the return to work will ensure workers are fit for work.
- Any issues or obstacles with returning to work must be identified beforehand. This could be specific to an individual or apply to the whole team. Asking employees about their concerns could highlight some issues and will help with the transition. Obstacles could include childcare, transport, or health.
- If there are any obstacles, address them. Having a plan to tackle any issues will help in creating a seamless return to work.
- But if there are issues that you cannot resolve in-house, consider Occupational Health. With a range of services, they will be able to advise you on how they can help.
Of course, employers can provide excellent support and prepare for the return to work. But employees can also play an active role in taking steps to help make this change even easier.
These simple steps can again help mitigate feelings of worry and uncertainty that employees may be experiencing:
- Keep in contact with work colleagues. Simply talking to those who are having the same experience can be calming, reassuring, and provide support. But aim to talk about things other than work. Talk about family, TV shows, and even your weekly food shop! Anything really.
- Read regular updates from work. Knowing what’s going on gets rid of any feelings of the ‘unknown’. But if you don’t receive these, you could ask your employer about a team chat or WhatsApp group.
- Plan your return to work. Having a simple plan in place will reduce feelings of uncertainty. Plan your commute, timings, breakfast, uniform, and even what you’re having for lunch.
- Arrange to meet a colleague or a few beforehand for a coffee. This informal meeting will make the first day back less overwhelming.
- Have an open discussion with your employer about returning to the office. If you aren’t comfortable with a full return, ask to discuss alternative options which could include hybrid working or a gradual return.
- Get back into a good sleeping routine. Lockdown and remote working has seen many people’s sleep patterns turned upside down. Slowly returning to a good routine will ensure the first day isn’t a shock to the system.
- Use the services your employer provides. They are there to be used and provide support for employees. Otherwise, suggest support services that you feel would aid the team in returning to the workplace.
Many businesses have returned, or are in the process of returning to the office or factory. And whilst supporting employees during this time is vital, ongoing support will prove just as important. Every sector is expected to feel the long-term effects of the pandemic for the upcoming months and even years. By incorporating open and honest wellbeing talks into your monthly/ annual reviews, any issues or concerns will be highlighted. These can then be addressed early on. Before they can affect the health and wellbeing of the employee, and ultimately the wider business goals.
Get in touch with Acorn to discuss how we can help your employees return to work and provide vital support. Contact us via phone on 01260 277797 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org