Top Tips for Transitioning Employees Back to the Office

- Remote Working

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by Brian Thomas

As more businesses begin to reopen their physical locations, you might be feeling like it’s time to bring your team back to your normal office setting. However, it’s not something you can snap your fingers and do in one day. There are numerous regulations to follow for safely bringing back your employees. Also, just as it took time for individuals to adjust to working from home, it will take some modifications to get used to going back to work.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed at the prospect of creating a flawless transition back to the office, relax, Rome wasn’t built in a day. Here are some tips for making the conversion from at-home working situations back to an office environment go smoothly for your team.

#1: Host Meetings with Your Team: Alright, you’ve made the tentative decision to re-open your office space. Now what? Well, you’ll want to meet with other members of your leadership team or key stakeholders to discuss next steps. Many businesses have had to alter their workspace to accommodate CDC and state guidelines for social distancing and COVID protocols. You’ll want to meet with your fellow administrators to outline what changes are in the budget for improving your space, and where to house staff if your current space isn’t big enough for everyone. Maybe you’ll realize that now isn’t a feasible time to bring everyone back together, but by opening up the conversation with leadership first, you’ll prevent false hope within your workforce.

If you decide, however, that now is a good time to bring employees back, and you can change your space to meet safety guidelines, then it’s time to start meeting with your employees. Yes, some of them are going to be overjoyed at the prospect of returning to the office. On the other hand, there might be some resistance from individuals who’ve gotten used to working remotely. These meetings are a chance for employees to voice their concerns and opinions about a return to normal. Using this feedback, you’ll be able to build a comprehensive return to work plan that benefits everyone. Whether you choose to do one-on-one sessions or town hall meetings, the main point is to hear what your employees are feeling and respond to their input.

#2: Create Policies for Your Workforce: Once you’ve started open conversations with your workforce about a return to the office, it’s time to consider the what-if scenarios. What if a sick individual comes into your office? What if the state shuts down again? What if there’s another flare-up of COVID in your community? You need to have a plan in place for how your business will respond to these situations because there is a chance they could happen. Meet with your legal team to discuss new sick leave policies or emergency plans for your team. Doing the work ahead of time will prevent a mad scramble when something like this does happen in your office. Make sure you communicate these changes to your employees. Once again, schedule mandatory meetings where you or your managers can walk individuals through the new standards, and how they should contact their manager if they become ill. Introducing the new rules before employees come into the office will ensure everyone is on the same page.

#3: Allocate Resources for Support: The last year was tough for everyone, and your team most likely had a mixed bag of impacts and rollercoasters in their lives. Whether it was a loved one who became ill or dealing with teaching a child while working, they need more support from you than ever. One option for you to use is counselling services for mental health. Offering this benefit to your employees shows that you care about them, and allow them a chance to get professional help for what’s on their mind. Or perhaps you need to continue the working remotely privilege to employees. There will most likely be an adjustment period for your team to get used to commuting to work again or perhaps it’s due to space constraints. Whatever the reason, think about your people and their daily lives. Maybe they have kids at home or an elder that needs additional care. Speak as a leadership team to strategize the best way to help people who need to stay remote for longer. Perhaps it’s a chance to add a new policy about remote work to your overall business plans, which is a big plus for hiring new talent and keeping current employees happy.

#4: Leave the Digital Door Open: An easy thing for you to do for your team as you make the return to office is leaving your office door open. Now, we know it’s not a physical door, but leaving time on your calendar or offering individual sessions to talk through things is a big help for your team. They will know their concerns will be heard and addressed. They’ll have the chance to bring an idea to you for consideration. This is a good way for them to know their thoughts and feelings are valued by you as their boss. Conversations are a key part of a good employer-employee relationship, and this is a time when it’s very important for your business.

This is a chance for you to gauge how employees are feeling about your decision to bring them back to work. It’s also important to explain why this choice was made, and how the process happened. Think about when you implemented big changes while in office, you probably followed the steps mentioned above too. Talking and listening to your team is a big part of making this transition a success.

Making the switch back to your office may sound easy in theory, but there are a lot of steps involved. But by following the tips mentioned above, you’ll make it easier for your team to make the move back to the office with you without too much pain.

Photo credit Jason Weingardt via Unsplash

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