It may feel like a long time coming but if it’s finally time to welcome employees back to work after the pandemic, we’ve got 7 ingenious tips for you to make the transition a lot easier on everyone involved.
After a considerable amount of time spent on furlough or working from home in their own company, it’s imperative for your workforce’s wellbeing that they feel comfortable and supported upon their return after Covid.
Here’s 7 ways top employers are making their employees’ transition back to work pain-free and exciting.
1. Follow The Latest Government Guidance
One of the best ways you can make your staff feel comfortable on their return to work is to make sure that you are following the latest government guidelines. They detail everything you need to know from health and safety risk assessments that you can complete and share with your staff, to tips on how to make sure your workplace is sufficiently aerated to decrease the likelihood of infection.
Nothing is more unnerving post pandemic than feeling as though you’re in an unclean environment in which you’re likely to pick something up. Make sure that your workplace is clean and tidy and ready for their return. Even if your staff don’t catch Covid, time spent alone at home will make them more susceptible to contracting those every day coughs, colds, and viruses that they have not yet have been in contact with. This guidance will help to ensure that your staff feel and stay as safe and well as possible. Make sure you also turn away any staff members who show symptoms for the sake of the rest of your team and inform them to self isolate in accordance with the law. This will allow your staff to feel confident that their safety has been considered and will make them feel a whole lot more confident about being back in their old environment.
2. Treat Your Staff To A Welcome Back Gift
A great way to make your staff feel welcome and appreciated for all of their hard work is to surprise them with a gift in the form of a coffee on you, lunch at a leading restaurant, or some credit to spend at a store of their choosing. This idea is sure to make them smile and feel valued after a hard 18 months at home. Gift cards are a quick, hassle free way of treating your staff and not to mention the fact that they’re tax free too! It’s a win win!
Check out these popular gift card options from food & drink for culinary treats such as Just Eat gift cards, to entertainment gift cards including Currys and Amazon vouchers so they can sink their teeth into a great new book, trending TV show or game so they can wind down sufficiently after a long day back at the office. Or how about a John Lewis gift card? They could pick between anything from fashion to homeware. Trust us, the transition back will certainly feel tiring for your staff, so make sure they can wind down in a way that they choose at the end of the day.
3. Communication Is Key
Your staff have likely spent months of time at home only communicating through digital means such as email or Zoom and in some cases not at all. Consider allowing your staff the freedom to be able to talk to their coworkers. This allows them to feel engaged in the work they're doing while enabling them to build relationships with their colleagues who may want to collaborate.
Communication will also help to increase productivity and boost serotonin amongst your workforce, while simultaneously distracting their minds from feeling constantly stressed out and under pressure to perform in their new situation. Having discussions on a personal level and in a meeting format ensures that your workers are informed of any business changes, targets, or growth intentions set for the company or for them personally. Transparency is key and keeping your staff up-to-date will make them feel a lot less worried, a lot more settled, and much more respected.
4. Employee Wellbeing
The pandemic has been taxing on everyone in different ways with many leaving lockdown suffering with mental health illnesses such as depression and anxiety. Everyone copes in different ways so it’s super important that you check in on your staff and know how they are feeling. Some employees, whether they be furloughed staff or staff who have been working from home, may need additional support as they struggle to adjust or bring themselves back to the workplace.
It is important for you to consider that people may find it hard to simply ‘snap back’ as they have become, for instance, used to juggling their role as a parent with their day job or have suffered from isolation and loneliness. A great way to help your staff out when it comes to their wellbeing is to first talk about their concerns and reassure them, then to consider offering a phased return to work or hybrid working so that the adjustment doesn't feel as overwhelming. The CIPD reports that “mental health related absence is the most common cause of long-term sickness in UK workplaces with stress-related absence on the rise by 37% since last year.” The result of this can lead to an increase in staff turnover and a decrease in drive and productivity, meaning that it is imperative to your staff and business that your workforce feel heard and are cared for sufficiently.
As an employer, you have a duty to look out for your workforce’s wellbeing and a great way to do this is to communicate regularly that there will be mental health and wellbeing support available to them and to encourage your workers to talk and make use of those services.
5. Team Building Activities
Bring a little laughter and vitality into your workforce by planning some team building activities. This is a great way to get your staff acquainted and communicating after so long apart and is a fantastic way of introducing new staff members to the team too.
The activities could be as simple as a game of bingo or a quiz with gift vouchers or a bottle of fizz for the prize, to something a bit more thrilling such as a group trip to Go Ape or paintballing. Activities such as these will encourage friendly competition, will challenge your staff, and allow them to support and build one another up. An experience such as this will make them feel as though they are entering back into a caring, fun environment and will instantly boost team morale.
6. Train Them Up
Your staff may feel a little out of the loop after a year at home or feel as though their progression in their role has been stunted. A great way to combat these issues is to make sure your workers have access to sufficient training. Whether it be talking them through updated processes, or training them in new software that’ll benefit the company and staff themselves, ensuring they feel comfortable with company processes and know their personal goals will make them feel a lot more relaxed and confident about their return to work.
7. Be Flexible
It would be naive to think that your employees can simply snap back into their old routine which now feels like a completely alien way of life. Many staff have been grappling with caring for kids and pets over the past year and may now be struggling to find sufficient childcare, or may now feel like they are missing out on the important familial stuff due to a resurgence of rigid working hours in the office.
Giving them a little breathing space by offering flexi time won’t just boost staff productivity and reduce turnover but will boost their happiness too. You could offer extended lunch breaks to give staff the opportunity to reconnect, or allow them to start or finish their shift later or earlier so they can work around their personal lives. Alternatively, have you considered giving them the ability to split their working week between home and the office? This measure could be made long term or short term, but either way it’s a sure fire way to make the transition process easier on your workers and their personal situations. This also gives long-time furloughed staff who may be feeling disengaged to get back into the swing of things without it affecting their physical or mental health.
Remember that transitioning back to work is going to be a very real adjustment for your staff, just as significantly as the adjustment of learning to work from home was a year and a half ago. Try to support and talk to your staff as much as possible to understand how they’re really feeling and use these helpful tips accordingly as and when needed.