What to consider when preparing your team for a return to the office

Back in March 2020, businesses all over the world were scrambling to come up with a plan to continue operating their businesses remotely as the world was shutting down quickly and the future unclear.  Those who had already adopted a remote (or hybrid) Work model saw a smooth transition with little disruption to the regular flow of their business.  The ones that didn’t have anything in place had a harder time to transition their businesses from traditional brick and mortar sales to e-commerce, landline telephones to VoIP, in-person meetings to video meetings.

 

Fast forward two years to today, most people have gotten used to the way that the world operates with minimal to no physical interaction in all aspects of our lives including how we work.  Now that most things have started to reopen and people are beginning to go back to something that resembles life before COVID-19, many businesses are also thinking about what the workplace should look like going forward (more specifically where and how).  Below are a few important considerations and strategies that businesses need to think about to ensure that their employees stay happy as works shifts back to the office:

 

1) Developing a return to work plan

In order to implement any sort of changes effectively, businesses must formally draft a plan with policies and procedures so that their team knows what is expected and what to expect as your businesses moves back into the workplace.  In this return to work plan, there should be information about the timeline of when the team is expected back in the office, many days will your team be required to be in the office, what safety measures are put in place, what adaptations will be made with the changing situations, and any support / help that your team can have access to as they make their transition back to the office.

 

2) Considering your team’s comfort level of going back to the office

The worst thing that any business can do is to force their team back to the office before they are ready to do so.  You must understand what your team is thinking about going back to the workplace, any concerns they may have, and try to ensure that it is done with a positive emphasis.  Some may have adapted to the pandemic lifestyle and just needs some extra time to readjust, some may want to continue to monitor the changing situation, some may want some changes in the office before returning, some may not want to get the vaccine while others aren’t comfortable being in the same room as someone who doesn’t have a vaccine.  You must understand your team before enforcing any changes or return to work policy.

 

3) Ensuring safety measures

Most businesses would already have safety measures in place for the past two years and as we look ahead into the second half of the year and beyond, some measures (if not all) should still be implemented in some capacity.  Some businesses may choose to still implement masks when physical distance cannot be done or multiple people are meeting in the same room.  Other measures like physical distancing , regular cleaning and sanitization rules must also be enforced in order to keep everyone in the workplace safe and put your team at ease.

 

4) Flexible work models

A return to the office doesn’t mean go from 100% remote back to 100% in-office.  There is a of flexibility in between that allows for some remote work and some in-office time.  Depending on the nature of the business and the role and responsibilities of each role, some of your team members may only need to be in the office once or twice a week and would prefer the flexibility to work from home sometimes.  A hybrid work model is probably the way of the future and offers a good balance of flexibility and team building / collaboration.

 

5) Rethinking the workspace and having the right technology to support

Businesses really have to think about what the office means to them.  In the past, it’s a place where people do their work.  Now that it’s been proven that work can be done virtually (no pun intended) anywhere, what does the workspace really mean?  To some, it will be a place to collaborate and a place to meet.  A lot of businesses have shifted to shared work stations where people do not have designated seats, but identical work stations that they can connect their laptops / devices to when they are in the office.  With a hybrid work model, offices require less physical seats as not everyone will be in the office at the same time.  Some businesses may opt to get a bigger space to accommodate the same number of stations or stick with the same workspace but give more room in between each work station as they will require less seats for the same size team.

 

Furthermore, to support a team where some are working remotely and some are in the office, businesses must invest into the right technology that can connect everyone.  This means more technology into video conferences, phone communication, and cloud databases for easy access to company information no matter where they are.  Traditional meeting rooms may be replaced with teleconferencing rooms, and whiteboards may need to be changed to large flat screen monitors / projectors.  The need to keep your team connected is critical to help them collaborate.

 

6) Supportive culture of wellbeing

Even though remote work from home sounds very good, we’ve come to learned that burnouts, anxiety, lack of social interactions, and other negative effects also exist.  Your team needs to know that they have the support and backing from the leaders of your business no matter what type of work model and comfort level they have.  Leaders that display empathy towards their team helps alleviate mental stress and allows teams to perform at their best and lowers the risk of losing their top talent to their competitors.

 

7) Monitor, communicate and optimize your workplace strategy

The best plans and strategies are only effective if they’re adaptive to the changing situations and acted on accordingly.  When businesses puts together a plan / strategy, it is based on the information available at the time they establish them.  As the plans / strategies are implemented, you may realize that certain things may not work as well as you have thought and you need the feedback from your team to adjust and pivot.  Talk to your team in regular intervals to ensure that the plan is working and everyone is happy and if there needs to be any changes, address them immediately.  Furthermore, ensure that your leadership / management team knows their role in optimizing the changes that are happening and everyone from top to bottom are on the same page.

 

Returning to the office doesn’t have to be a battle between management and staff.  With open communication, proper plans in place, and the right strategy for your team, it can be done effectively and keeping everyone happy at the same time.

 

Contact Us today to speak with one of our Recruitment Specialists and let us help you  build your team with stronger talent in the second half of 2022!

 

Photo Credit: Diverse group photo created by rawpixel.com – www.freepik.com

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