Bringing employees back to the workplace

Charlotte Allen
August 3, 2020

As lockdown continues to ease and the government begin to reduce furlough support, more people are returning to the workplace. This is a big, potentially anxiety-inducing step for both employees and employers. As a business owner, leader or manager, it's important that everyone in your team feel comfortable about their return to work.

To help make the transition as smooth as possible, we’ve put together some tips for returning to the workplace. As well as making the workplace physically safe, supporting the mental wellbeing of staff as they return is equally important. Here are some of our tips to help you determine the right way to open your working space.

Returning to the workplace guidance

Any back-to-work plan needs to acknowledge the profound changes to ways of working as a result of COVID-19. This is likely to have a longer term impact on how we all work, with research showing that:

  • Three-quarters of employees want to continue working remotely more frequently
  • Over half of people surveyed prefer remote work
  • 60% believe they’re as productive or more productive than in their physical workplace

Any plan will need to be based on the latest government guidelines, and you’ll need to be relatively flexible. As we’ve learned, circumstances may result in government guidelines changing unexpectedly. All plans should include a robust hygiene management protocol that identifies risks and touchpoints in your working environment. You’ll likely need to have a phased return by introducing a small percentage of the team to test any new procedures. Once you’ve assessed whether these work, you can start a more formal reopening.

Managing your team

One thing that shouldn’t be overlooked is clear communication with your team. They should be kept in the loop so there are no surprises and everyone feels comfortable about what’s happening. Anonymous employee surveys are a good way to collect honest feedback, which will be crucial for a smooth transition back to work.

As changes to furlough come into effect and you start bringing staff back, it’s important these changes are recorded in your accounts. We’re continuously updating Xero Payroll with new features to support changes to the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme. Xero are currently working on a solution that enables you to record flexi furlough, keep your eyes on the blog and social media to find out more.

Supporting mental health

Supporting your team’s mental wellbeing is key for a successful return-to-work plan.

  1. Provide certainty: Provide certainty around your company’s return-to-work plans and the role each member of staff will play. This will help reduce anxiety for them in one area of their life and allow them to make plans for the future.
  2. Manage losses of freedom: Returning to the workplace ultimately means less time to spend with loved ones and on hobbies, which is something most of us have become accustomed to during lockdown. Consider whether you can offer to retain some of that freedom in your new working structure.
  3. Capitalise on the humanity we’ve gained: Work relationships will have changed during lockdown both for better or worse. Catching glimpses of each other’s personal lives help to forge open and authentic connections. Capitalise on that by identifying new working relationship dynamics.
  4. Signpost your support systems: Normalise the fact that current circumstances will impact mental health and signpost the available support to your entire workforce so that everyone knows who they can turn to.

Unmind, a workplace mental health platform, has put together a really handy back to work handbook: 6 steps to a mentally healthy transition. Check it out here

If you are returning to your workplace or managing staff physically re-joining you, we wish you a happy and healthy return to work!

If you have any questions or we can help you with furlough or any COVID-19 business support please get in touch. Email the team or call 01858 289 189. You can also refer to our COVID-19 support page.

If you're taking some more time to return to the office and looking at cloud based solutions, get in touch to talk about Xero and how it can change your business.

Thanks for stopping by,

Charlotte & The Business Hut Team

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