With businesses beginning to slowly reopen following worldwide lockdowns and restrictions, employers are being faced with the task of working out how to make a safe transition back into the office. Whilst a lot of employees are keen to return to work for the sake of their mental health, some are perfectly content with working from home – no matter your stance, this is a delicate time for all involved.
Work environments won’t be the same as they once were – and this is ok! There is now a period of time where businesses can make adjustments to their workplace and create a more fluid – and safer – working environment for everyone.
Reassuring employees that it is safe to return to the workplace is key and making employees return to the office without a suitable adjustment period, safety measures or a plan in place will not only be overwhelming, but you risk a potential outbreak, damage morale and harm company culture and trust. Everyone needs time to readjust into working in an office environment again. With that in mind, here are some ways you can make employees feel safe in the workplace once again.
Create a detailed back to work plan
Perhaps the worst thing you can do as an employer is reintroduce your employees back into the workplace without a plan in place. Following the initial COVID-19 outbreak, a lot of employees will have reservations about returning back to work, whether it’s getting public transport or sitting in an office with coworkers again.
As an employer, you should address these concerns with a detailed back to work plan, with clear guidelines on how you are making your employees’ safety a priority. Rather than forcing everyone to return back at the same time, instead consider things such as staggered start and finish times, sanitary and hygiene procedures and your office layout. You may want to think about partial returns, where different departments return at different times, or alternate days working in the office and from home.
Rearrange your office layout
In keeping with government regulations and advice, you should be encouraging your employees to maintain social distancing where possible, especially in the office. This may mean that your current office layout isn’t suitable, so now is the time for a change. Office desks will likely need to be moved further apart and shared spaces, such as small meeting rooms and communal areas, may need to be closed.
You may also want to consider installing protective screens if you come into contact with clients or customers on a regular basis. Another thing you can do is encourage natural light and open windows to help with air flow within the office. This may be the time where you consider updating the office with fresh, clean decor – a coat of paint, new furniture, bespoke blinds and light fittings will make the place feel much cleaner.
Create new, healthy habits
A recent study found that just 14% of employees say that their company is COVID safe, with the proper precautions in place to welcome them back to work. Even with precautionary measures in place, almost half of employees said they feel nervous about the potential risk of infection when it comes to reintegrating with their coworkers. This is the perfect time to encourage new healthy habits and safety measures within the workplace, not only to protect your employees, but also the longevity of your business in this uncertain time.
Meeting rooms should be limited with the number of people allowed in and masks, sanitary wipes and hand sanitiser should be provided as essential by employers. Discourage the sharing of equipment and instead encourage the wiping down of frequently touched spots around the office, as well as frequent hand washing and sanitising.
You should also be emphasising this commitment to your employees. Anyone who is feeling unwell or is showing symptoms should be encouraged to work from home if possible. As an employer, you have a responsibility to keep your employees safe.
Keep your communication channels open with everyone and reassure employees that any concerns for safety and wellbeing will be taken seriously. You may want to over-communicate with your employees in order to keep them reassured and don’t forget to have 1-1 chats with them to see how they are getting on.