How the best workplaces are adapting permanently to Covid-19.

Many employees are now returning properly to their workplaces for the first time since March 2020, presenting a whole raft of new HR challenges. For example, parents may be breathing a sigh of relief that they aren’t home-schooling anymore, while facing that age-old dilemma of what on earth to do with the kids during the school holidays!

Employers have already been cautioned that they need to provide support for their workforce on returning at what could be a stressful time. For some the return to the workplace will be a welcome renewal of social interaction, but for others it could cause anxiety and new challenges; lessening the impact of this will be key in keeping all staff happy, healthy and productive in the months ahead.

women working at a desk in the city

Having personal space at work will help alleviate anxiety

If your business is shifting away from homeworking and back to the workplace, or you’re rolling out hybrid working as the new norm, here’s a few tips on how to manage the situation:

  • Have a clear overall roadmap for bringing people back into the workplace. Whether that’s full-time or as part of a new hybrid working arrangement, you should share this strategy with your team, be responsive to constructive criticism and prepared to make changes. Explain the reasoning for decisions and adopt a fair and caring approach; people work best when they have clarity and are involved in the decision-making process.
  • Talk to people on an individual basis. Everyone will have had vastly different experiences over the last 18 months, so it’s vital that you understand how they feel about returning to shared workplaces again.
  • Engage with the parents in your team. Have those early conversations about managing future self-isolation periods for school-aged children, school holidays and the general readjustment back to workplace-based working. Again, every situation will be different so make sure you understand the individual challenges which may hinder productivity.
  • Spell out your policies. When it comes to mask wearing, social distancing, hand washing and ‘fixed teams’ (to limit the potential spread) people will have divergent opinions. However, remember, these precautions are unselfish actions designed to protect the most vulnerable in our society; if that’s not fundamental to good workplace culture then we don’t know what is!
  • Encourage people to show understanding towards others. For some colleagues the return to the workplace will be an anxious time and require adjustment.
  • Mental health support should be signposted, easily accessible and destigmatised. Provide every member of your team with an updated summary of your mental health policy and information on where to seek help.
  • Establish new communication norms. Is everyone comfortable with face-to-face meetings? Some changes may need to be phased in gradually, but the important thing is it that lines of communication remain open and effective.
  • Log absences carefully. If you see a pattern emerging, find out what the problem is. Many people have changed their lifestyles and readjusting to being back in the workplace again may be causing issues behind the scenes.
  • If it’s not working, change it! Regularly review the situation and decide whether your workplace set-up is helping or hindering your business. The ‘rules’ of work are less fixed after Covid and, for some businesses, that means change is less scary; embrace that!

If you’d like tailored advice and support on some of the issues raised here, please get in touch – we’d be happy to discuss how we can help.