As businesses start to open again, people will gradually begin to go back to working in their offices. In just a few months, best practices and etiquette have changed.
Returning to work after COVID-19 may be scary. To ease the transition, HR teams will need to make changes to policies, the physical workplace, and their approach to employee relations.
Follow these six steps to ensure your office is prepared for when employees return post-pandemic.
- Make the Workplace Safe
Upon returning to work after COVID-19, health and safety should be your biggest focus. The first step is ensuring the physical workplace is safe for employees to work in.
FKM can help provide a risk assessment of your office space and provide recommendations of how you can reconfigure your space for social distancing.
- Encourage Good Hygiene
It is important to encourage employees to keep it safe and healthy. When everyone does their part, the whole office will feel more at ease. Give employees an extra reminder by hanging posters in common areas. Include information about:
- Cough/sneeze etiquette (into a tissue or elbow)
- Hand washing practices
- Not coming into work when they feel ill
- COVID-19 symptoms (because the virus likely will not be eradicated by the time you return to work)
Make it easy for employees to follow good hygiene practices by keeping plenty of supplies on hand. Keep disinfectant in common areas so employees can wipe down counters, door handles, elevator buttons and appliances after use. Place hand sanitizer around the office, too, for quick disinfecting when employees can’t wash their hands.
- Update Policies and Procedures
Change your policies about holding meetings. Stuffing too many people into a meeting room doesn’t comply with social distancing and may make some employees uneasy. Ask employees to only fill meeting rooms up to half capacity and to hold larger meetings over video conference.
Consider changing the layout of the office to give each employee more space. Rearranging workstations to separate them can help reduce the spread of germs. Workplaces that are short on space could convert meeting rooms into offices for one or two employees. Even a temporary change in layout can work wonders in putting employees’ minds at ease.
- Support Employees’ Mental Health
Self-isolation and quarantining during the pandemic may have affected your employees’ mental health. Companies should be aware of the potential effects and have resources ready to help.
The COVID lock down has created lots of extra challenges such as a lack of social contact with work colleagues, feeling alone, trapped or struggling with childcare responsibilities. There is also a real anxiety around the impact of the virus itself, job security concerns whilst on furlough and genuine worries around whether it is safe to physically return to their workplace.
It’s also crucial for employers to check in properly with their staff — to listen to any questions they may have and provide support. Not knowing where you stand with regards to your work or the future of the business can make anxiety far worse. While many businesses do not yet know how things will pan out for them, employers must communicate what they do know.
- Restore Productivity
After a few months of working remotely, employees have likely fallen into a home office routine. However, going back to commuting, earlier alarms and having less flexible work hours might feel scary. Dealing with reluctance to give up remote working will be one of the biggest challenges for HR teams. To ease the transition:
- Be flexible with work hours for the first few weeks
- Provide employees with a list of productivity resources to get them back to their routine
- If their job allows it, let employees work remotely for longer
- Offer to add a few remote workdays each week to an employee’s contract
- Encourage Social Interaction
Remote workers pose a challenge when it comes to social well being. They are removed from company culture and can go a long time without speaking to anyone, which can have negative impacts on the social (and mental) aspects of their well being. Employers must take steps to support remote workers, making sure to keep in regular contact. Help them feel included by arranging team meetings with video calling and ensuring they are invited to work activities and social events such as online quizzes or bingo.
Contact FKM to help retrofit and reconfigure your workplace, at +353 1 414 5000 or firstname.lastname@example.org