If, like me, you enjoy work and the challenges it brings, you will be excited to get back into the swing of things.
However, for many people, the idea of returning work fills them with fear and trepidation. Because the ways of working to which they had become accustomed have changed.
Employees coming back after an extended furlough or homeworking may find their commute quite different now masks are mandatory on public transport where previously we were able to sip on our skinny lattes en-route.
How employees actually do their work may have changed too. The physical layout of their workplace may have been altered, and their shift schedule changed.
They may find that colleagues with whom they once chatted to over lunch are cohorted into different teams, or even those chats need to take place across separate tables.
Requirements to wear masks in the workplace, to stay two metres apart and take more considerable hygiene precautions, perhaps working behind a Perspex screen will all add to the strangeness of the new world of work.
For those not on furlough, just being back in the office will be a big change compared to three months of homeworking.
Some may be eager to get back to work but have care giving responsibilities that make it difficult or impossible for them to do so. Others may have health conditions which they worry could make them more vulnerable.
All in all, this is a period of considerable uncertainty for the majority of employees.
What can employers do?
Putting health and safety and employee wellbeing at the heart of any return to work plan will help gain employee buy-in and reduce the stress of transitioning back to work. Employees are counting on their companies to help them get back to work safely.
Your return to work plans should consider both the physical and mental wellbeing of employees, such as:
Assurances that employees will not be treated unfairly if circumstances mean they aren’t able to return to work or work the standard 9-5 due to home life commitments or medical conditions.
How employees get to and from work, as well as what they do when they are at work.
How you communicate the changes in your workplace to your employees.
How you empower your managers to help employees having difficulties.
How you give employees the chance to ask questions about how COVID-19 is managed or report if new ways of working don’t work in practice.
The extra support you can provide, for example, through your employee assistance programmes.
Above all, employers who demonstrate commitment to following Government guidelines and keep an open door to questions, concerns and ideas are likely to help ease any fears and make returning to work joyful!
I have my face covering and hand sanitiser at the ready – see you soon!
If you would like help with any aspects of managing your businesses return to work and COVID-19 for your organisation please get in touch.