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Gradual ease of lockdown restrictions has finally begun, and while people are encouraged to work from home whenever possible, some businesses are now opening their doors to employees after weeks of lockdown. As we return to the workplace, we are going to find its culture we return to very different from the one we left.
Of course the physical safety and health of staff will be a huge priority, and employers should be planning for how best to manage the return to the workplace in a way that keeps employees safe, but the risk to people’s health is psychological as well as physical, and employers should also focus on how organisations can take care of their people and safeguard their mental health and wellbeing during what is bound to be an uncertain and worrying time.
From anxiety about the ongoing health crisis, to fear of commuting on busy trains and working in a busy environment, there are many ways employees will be apprehensive about returning to an office-based working routine. A lot of staff will have experienced challenging domestic situations during lockdown, and some will have experienced illness and even bereavement.
It is vital that organisations implement ways to support physical and mental health and make decisions regarding the new workplace culture directed by considerations of employee wellbeing.
Creating an agile working culture that can accommodate personal insecurity and uncertainty will help employees adjust back to working in an office and reintegrate into the physical workforce at a pace that feels comfortable rather than stressful. This will be especially vital for employees whose domestic situation has been significantly affected by the pandemic.
It is also vital that your staff feel comfortable acknowledging the anxiety rather than pressured to continue as they did before the crisis. Make sure they are aware of the resources they can access both in the office and out. If your business has an employee assistance programme or access to occupational health advisers, encourage employees to use these as much as they need, with no stigma or pressure.
The reopening of offices won’t all happen at once — it will be a drawn-out process conducted in stages, and part of ensuring staff remains calm, healthy and happy will be a comprehensive re-orientation or re-induction process.
Managers need to have a sensitive discussion with every employee that focuses on health, safety and well-being and allows them to ask for any ongoing support they may need to facilitate an effective return to the workplace.
Transparency and consistency
Let your staff know you understand that it is an anxious time. Make sure they know where they stand with leave, pay and other factors that can cause anxiety when unclear. Make the workplace a safe, hygienic place to be, and ensure that all new regulations, standards and practices are consistent and easy to understand and follow.
Finally, consider robust practical strategies such as:
Which will help to dispel employee anxiety by demonstrating that the situation is in good hands.
This news was brought to you by Morgan Pryce, a specialist tenant acquisition agent with offices in Oxford Circus and the City. Morgan Pryce specialises in search, negotiation and project management and works exclusively for tenants.