n the wake of COVID-19, countless employees took to remote work, leaving the office behind in the name of safety, and instead, set up an office at their couch, kitchen table, or at-home workspace. However, many of these same workers are now preparing to return to their onsite offices, whether entirely or as part of a hybrid work model.
In either case, company leaders need to embrace necessary preparations and adjustments to welcome their employees back to the office. From giving them time to understand new software to ensuring the office itself is safe for work, these steps will help your workers to feel more confident about their return, making for better productivity and outcomes as time goes on.
1. Verify your office’s safety.
First and foremost, you must make sure the office is a safe place to work. Of course, this includes the risk of COVID-19 and its most recent strains in particular. However, while COVID is undeniably a public health problem, it’s just as important to consider other risks a return to the workplace could cause. For example, has the building been properly maintained during employees’ absence?
Otherwise, you might have mold, radon, pests, or other types of pollution that can pose health risks. Take the time to schedule air quality testing and have an expert test for carbon monoxide, asbestos, radon, and other contaminants. Ensure your ventilation is working properly and that the indoor air quality is healthy enough to welcome your workers back safely.
2. Consider any overlooked changes.
n the time that your employees have been working from home, some changes have likely been made. For instance, you might have transitioned many in-office projects to Adobe After Effects, creating motion graphics and visual effects with a whole new set of tools.
If your remote workers have been using different software, you might want to point them towards an Adobe After Effects free trial to help avoid a steep learning curve on their first day back. If you do so, though, be sure to schedule a reminder to go out when that free trial ends—the last thing you want to do is leave your employees facing a fee for trying to develop an understanding of After Effects templates before tackling a project in the office.
3. Listen to questions and concerns.
Chances are, your employees are facing some discomfort over returning to work, a phenomenon known as “reentry anxiety.” Be prepared to help alleviate their concerns and answer any questions that arise. A stressed-out no-longer-remote worker will appreciate not only your efforts to make the return to work a safe one but the energy you’ve put into making them comfortable with this transition.
4. Be prepared to be flexible.
Despite your safety precautions, some employees might still be uncomfortable with reentering the workplace. Work to be compassionate and understanding of these fears, aiming to make the process less stressful. You might offer a gradual reentry, letting them ease into being back in the office or rearrange their workspace to allow for maximum social distancing. It can even be as simple as allowing employees to wear masks if they choose. This flexibility will help your workers transition smoothly and safely while showing them that you prioritize their health and well-being.
5. Find new ways to prepare.
When COVID-19 hit the United States, most employers weren’t prepared for the sudden adjustment to employees working from home. As transitions happen in the opposite direction, set aside some time to study how the adjustment to remote work occurred. Consider what went well and what didn’t then use those details to develop a plan for any similar disasters in the future. Not only will your efforts be appreciated company-wide, but they’ll help to ensure a more successful prognosis for your company, even in the face of a global pandemic.
After working from home throughout COVID-19, the return to the office is likely to be stressful for everyone involved. Nevertheless, with a few preparations and lots of compassion, you can make the process a smoother one for your employees.