Heading back to the office? Here’s our expert top-tips

Here are some key points for employers to consider when planning to mobilise staff back to the office. There are good and bad ways to bring your workforce back, and which route you choose can have serious implications on morale and productivity.

1. Be good to your staff

This has been an incredibly challenging time for everyone. The Office of National Statistics (UK) puts the percentage of adults experiencing anxiety at 40%. Lockdown has placed an undeniable toll on people, especially if their home circumstances are difficult or particularly stressful. Those married or in civil partnerships were also twice as likely to experience anxiety. Be ready to provide support and, where relevant, signpost to key services (many are excellent and free). The mental welfare of your staff is of the utmost importance in ensuring the overall health, wellbeing and cohesion of your entire team.

2. Go slow

Don’t rush to get the entire workforce back. Everyone has been impacted differently. Many of your employees will be scared of returning and some will have medical reasons to be extra careful. Coming back to work will be a jolt for all employees, but some more than others. Plan for phases. Human behaviour is unpredictable – treading slowly and at a manageable pace will allow you the space and time to make the required adjustments.

3. Be flexible and learn

Be flexible and prepared to change working practices. The pandemic is evolving. Guidance is changing. Stay on your toes and make sure you are positioned to adapt to new guidance, potential local lockdowns, staff bubble outbreaks, client payment issues…etc.

When life came to a standstill, many industries could not stop; Healthcare; the food supply chain; delivery services; to name a few –  We should learn from those industries; the mistakes they made and the successes they had.

4. Be careful with the misinformation out there

“There are lies, damned lies and statistics” or more recently “fake news”. Information is being packaged in deceptive ways to coerce consumers into spending money on unproven products. Seek advice first or try to find unbiased data – surprisingly, this is usually not written by the company selling the product!

Making evidence-based decisions can only come from a broad knowledge of the data and research. With an understanding of the detail comes empowerment. Without this you cannot explicitly understand the risks and this may lead to under, or indeed over, restriction.

5. Remember, this is “unprecedented” and consider expert help

We have heard it during countless bulletins, but to state the obvious again: we are not in normal times. This is not in the regular Business, or indeed, Health and Safety Playbook. Reading and implementing  the government guidance is one thing; but understanding which parts are fundamental to the safety of your workforce and how to robustly and effectively apply them is completely different. Seek expert help to review your plans and help with your strategy – it will make your workforce safer and, ultimately, improve morale and save money down the line without being overly prohibitive.

6. Show leadership

Employees are looking up the chain for answers and guidance. This does not mean that you need to have all the answers; nobody does; but it does mean you should acknowledge this and do what you can to make your strategy robust, inclusive and evidence-based.

7. Be prepared for the worst

Whether we like it or not, re-energising the economy comes with risk. The government demonstrated their view on this by reducing the social distancing from 2metres to 1metre. We understand there is more at stake than the transmission of disease.

Over the coming months you are likely to have outbreaks in your workforce – be prepared for this, they do not have to cause rampant problems, and with a clear plans in place can be managed without risk to the business.

However your business operates, these changes are monumental and pose logistical, financial, operational and cultural challenges. These changes will require consistent reinforcement and re-evaluation.  Clear leadership and concise communication are far more critical now than before COVID-19, and many employees and employers alike will feel vulnerable for quite some time.

For more information on return-to-work readiness and preparedness speak to our team today for a free 30 minute consultation.

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