As we carry on through the Government’s roadmap to ease coronavirus restrictions, both employees and employers are beginning to consider the return to the office.
In a recent report by the BBC, it claimed that almost all of 50 of the UK’s biggest employers have said they do not plan to bring staff back to the office full-time. Some 43 of the firms said they would embrace a mix of home and office working, with staff encouraged to work from home two to three days a week.
Expectations regarding how this hybrid working practices will vary and a one-size-fits-all policy simply will not work. It is important that managers balance the needs of physical and virtual workplaces to ensure equality and inclusion. The workforce must feel engaged, connected, and have the tools and devices they need to perform best.
As we look to re-introduce employees back into the office in one way or another, there are a few practical things to consider for making your office return Covid-safe for you and your team.
Complete Covid risk assessments
By doing this you will help identify any potential hazards within the workplace and also reassure staff that you have things in place to control these hazards. The Health and Safety Executive has a really useful template which you can download here. All risk assessments must be regularly reviewed and updated.
Good ventilation and space
It has been clearly documented throughout the pandemic that good ventilation and minimising contact with people will help to reduce the spread of the virus.
Ensure that everyone has enough space to maintain social distancing and feel comfortable. Use screens to create a barrier between desks or if they are too close, cordon some off to stop them being used.
Many will have different feelings around returning to the office so it is important to listen to individuals’ concerns and treat everyone accordingly. If staff have been furloughed, they may need time to get back up to speed with their role and working practices. Some might be working on lower capacity and need more time to complete tasks until they are up to speed. Others may need to be retrained.
Be flexible with working hours
By being flexible about who works where and when will reduce the number of people in the workplace. Consider creating a rota or another workable system so that there are a maximum number of people in at any one time.
Listen to your employees and I mean really listen
Everyone’s experience of the past 15 months will have been different and as such we must ensure that everyone is treated individually.
Employees may have anxiety about the ongoing health crisis and fear of infection, as well social isolation due to the lockdown. Many will have experienced challenging domestic situations, such as juggling childcare or caring for a vulnerable relative, and financial worries if their family has had a reduction in income. Some will have experienced illness, or bereavement. Some members of staff may have concerns about travelling and socially distancing on public transport, or it may not be as readily available.
Take the time to listen to their concerns and offer support where you can.
Set clear expectations
For employees working from home and/or the office, ensure clear goals and expectations are set. This should also include boundaries around lunch breaks and starting/finishing times.
Regularly review these goals and pick up any concerns as soon as they arise.
Review and update policies
Now is the perfect time to review your policies to ensure they are still relevant and suit the needs of the business. Key policies to start with might include your homeworking policy, hybrid working policy, absence policy, expenses policy and wellbeing policy. Any changes to policies should be communicated out to all employees.
Communicate with employees
Communication is key. Keeping people informed of what changes are taken place within the organisation is crucial, whether it is good or bad news for individuals.
It’s often the unknown that can cause concern for employees. So keep communication channels open, consult with employees, and make them feel valued.
If you would like any further support on returning to the office, please contact email@example.com