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How to prepare your team for a stress-free return to the office

Creating a stress free, post-pandemic, return to work should be the priority for every HR and business leader. After such a long absence from the office employees could find the prospect of returning to work overwhelming, scary and exciting. 

Everyone’s emotions will be a bit different. As a business leader it’s your job to make sure your staff feels safe and comfortable, so they can transition back to work as productive members of your team. The last thing you need is distracted staff at a time when you want everyone focused and back in the office.   

So, if you’re a company owner or HR leader, drawing up a “return to the office action plan” is a great way to structure this process. It gives you a clear guide to follow and means no team member is left in the dark about what’s happening. 

When you’re creating this action plan there are a lot of things you’ll need to consider to make sure it covers the whole transition process. Below we’ve gathered our top tips, considerations and tools you’ll want to think about when making your plan. 

Make sure you address all the points below in any plan you devise to guarantee it’s robust, thorough and clear for your staff to follow. 

1. Do you have safety precautions in place?  

Ensuring your staff have a safe space to work when they come back into the office should be your number one priority. Although we’re allowed to return to work the virus hasn’t disappeared and an unsafe working environment could lead to distracted staff and a rise in Covid infections in your company. 

Building hygiene stations in your office, removing furniture to make sure everyone is socially distanced and checking your building’s ventilation are just a few things you can do to make your office safe.   

By putting these safety measures in place you can instil a sense of security and confidence in your team. They can stop worrying about potentially catching a virus and focus on getting back to work.

2. Can staff members talk to someone?

After a year of working from home returning to the office can be a daunting prospect. Meeting people face-to-face again and socialising with a large group can be quite stressful for certain individuals. 

If any of your team members struggle in social situations, having the right support on hand to help them can make their transition back into the office a lot easier. 

This could be in the form of a wellbeing officer who is available to talk to your employees if needed, or even by creating a safe environment in which they can express their feelings regarding work to you. 

By empathising with the stress and uncertainty your staff are facing you’re giving them one less thing to worry about. If they know it’s ok to feel a little overwhelmed when returning to the office they won’t bottle those emotions up. 

Instead they can work with you to get through them and that means you get your old employee back quicker and they’ll be happy that you helped them work through their issues.  

3. Are you using the right HR tools? 

Returning to the office after such a long absence is also a good excuse to review your HR tools and processes. Are you getting the most out of your HR software? Is it fit for purpose in the ‘new normal’? 

Transitioning back to the office after such a long time away requires clear and efficient communication and the right HR software tools can help you upskill staff on new safety procedures quickly.  At Phase 3, we help businesses to choose the right HR software for their needs. We take a client first approach to any consultancy we do and work hard to get ‘under the hood’ of your business to truly understand your problems. 

If you’re heading back into the office and would like to speak with some experts about how you can make that process as painless as possible for your whole company, drop us a line today to hear how we could help you.  

4. Are you communicating honestly?

Generally speaking, the pandemic has been a very uncertain time for all of us. With lockdowns, restrictions and rules it’s been difficult to know which way is up sometimes. Staff member’s will be bringing this uncertainty and doubt back into the office with them. So it’s important to cut through the noise and speak to them honestly about everything that’s happening in your business.

Honest communication is key when it comes to reducing stress, and this is true for just about any scenario. No matter the type of changes that need to be put in place or the news that needs to be told, it’s best to do so in an honest manner. Your team will appreciate the honesty that you give them and they gain confidence knowing you’re not hiding anything from them.

5. Are you keeping your work options open? 

Prior to the pandemic most people thought working from home was only something kooky tech start-ups did. Lot’s of businesses in the UK still operated from 9 to 5 and, although blended approaches to working were on the up, working from home wasn’t standard practice for a lot of people. 

But when the UK went into lockdown many businesses and employees realised working from home wasn’t only feasible but also, in many cases, actually led to an increase in productivity. Also staff member’s enjoyed the increased flexibility and autonomy they got working remotely.  

With the pandemic winding down and things returning to something we recognise as ‘normal’ many businesses will be moving to a blended way of working. Some are proposing a 40/60 split where staff spend two days in the office and three at home. 

This isn’t only good for employee morale but it makes sense from a Covid safety point of view too. Staggering the days your employees come into the office means there’s less chance of them bumping into each other.

By being open to a blended approach to work post-pandemic you can help staff who are worried about increased commuting costs, safety concerns and things like child care. Giving people the option to work from home alleviates employee stress and lets them phase themselves back into office life at a tempo they’re comfortable with. 

How can Phase 3 help your team return to the office?

Phase 3 is a HR software consultancy that helps businesses improve their processes, payroll and HR software. We’re an independent consultancy that takes a problem first approach when working with clients. We work within your business to deeply understand your processes, culture and problems then will provide solutions for you based on those considerations. We’ll never arrive in your office with a plan or tool already selected and then try to fit a square peg into a round hole. We want to become an arm of your business and will work to create meaningful and lasting change across your HR team and company.

If you’d like to speak with us regarding your company’s return to the office and how you can make the whole experience a positive, productive and beneficial for your business contact us today and we can tell you about the services we provide. 

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