Tips for Transitioning Back into the Office
Many offices went remote at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic to keep employees safe and healthy! It was the right move to make in 2020, provided organizations had the resources to do so, but now that the COVID-19 vaccine is widely available, and the country is slowly making its way back, executives must take a step back and revise their leadership strategies. Conversations are increasingly happening about reopening and returning to the office.
The next barrier organizations will face is how to lead employees back safely and effectively into offices where their day-to-day practices will be extremely different than they were before. If you are one of the many organizations heading back into the office, it’s time to start thinking about how you will ease employees into the transition.
[Learn more about how you can get back to the workplace safely here.]
Ease Employees into It
If your organization is discussing the possibility of returning to the office, whether at full capacity or a hybrid of remote and in-office work, it’s best to inform employees sooner rather than later. As employees have spent the last 6 months to a year adjusting to their new work-from-home arrangement, springing the return to the office on them might cause some anxiety.
By informing them well in advance, employees will have time to prepare for the day they will return to the office. Employers should encourage employees to think about their old in-office routine and compare it to their current work-from-home routine. They are likely very different but thinking about the changes they are going to have to make now will help them transition better later and ease back into the new normal.
Also, inform employees of the supplies they should consider bringing into the office with them when they return. Things will likely be very different, at least in the beginning of the transition and simple accommodations like these can make employees feel more comfortable and prepared when transitioning back into the office.
Make New Safety Guidelines Easily Accessible
As you make the transition from remote work back to the office, you will likely want employees to adopt new safety measures in their day-to-day practices to make the transition as safe as possible for everyone involved.
If that is the case, the new safety guidelines should be shared well in advance of the return and in an easily digestible way so employees can take the time to review, understand them, and ask any questions they may have. This could be a slightly stressful process for many employees as they have become accustomed to working from home and their new daily routines, so keep in mind that it might be a slow transition.
A slow but seamless transition is possible with the use of a Workplace Management Software to help your organization get back to the workplace safely and effectively. A Workplace Management Software, like Forum, can help organizations set up physically distanced workspaces, stagger employee schedules, maintain limited capacity, monitor workplace strategies, and more.
This kind of monitoring will help management feel confident in their ability to bring employees back into the office safely and make employees feel like they are being prioritized and supported in the process, which will help decrease return to work anxiety.
Incentivize Your Employees
Although some employees will be happy to return to the office, others might be more resistant. To make the transition even more seamless, incentivize them with as many actionable, healthy workplace strategies as possible.
Since there will be new guidelines set into place, such as social distancing, staggered hours, and limited capacity, employees might feel pressure to overwork themselves as they don’t have the typical outlets that they once did in-office, like having lunch with a coworker, water cooler talk, or conference room meetings. By lacking such outlets, employees will likely feel obligated to remain at their desks interacting with their computers for the majority of their 8-hour workday, instead of taking frequent breaks as they did at home or before COVID-19.
Remaining stationary and engaging with computer screens without sufficient breaks can quickly lead to severe stress, headaches, eye strain, anxiety, impaired sleep, depression, and countless other health conditions. To combat this, consider offering employee wellness solutions like a wellness reimbursement package and extra mental health days as you ease into the transition.
A wellness reimbursement package can be specifically tailored to fit each organization, however, the main gist is that organizations offer their employees reimbursement for any health materials they buy to make their daily function in the office better. For example, employees who are engaging with their computers for most of the day during the transition may be interested in upgrading their eyeglasses to receive better clarity when looking at their computer screens. This can reduce their risk of experiencing some of the health conditions caused by excessive screen time on unfocused eyes such as headaches and eye strain. Protecting against eye strain is directly correlated to an employee’s work function as eye strain can easily lead to deeper issues like sensitivity to light and decreased focus, harming an employee’s mental health and productivity. Employees can then request reimbursement for the eyeglasses themselves or for the cost of the appointment, which not only benefits the employee but the overall organization. A reimbursement program will make employees feel even more prioritized and supported during this time.
Similarly, providing employees with guaranteed sick leave or mental health days will help them manage their overall health better. It will also help employees feel more comfortable and empowered to take the necessary time to check on their health status before rejoining their team in-office, which will prevent them from putting themselves and their coworkers at risk.
Ready to Get Back?
Whether your organization is in a large or small office space, team safety should ultimately stay top of mind during your transition. Each organization will require its own set of needs but taking the above measures will provide a more seamless transition when you and your team are ready!