Top Ten Tips...Welcoming Employees Back to Work After Lockdown

Top Ten Tips...Welcoming Employees Back to Work After Lockdown

For many of us working from home during lockdown, our spare rooms and kitchen tables have become our new office space. For many small business owners, home working is the norm. But if you are used to seeing a hive of activity and people in your workplace, then the last three months will have felt incredibly strange.

And just as we get used to Virtual Zoom and Teams meetings, hygiene stations and donning and doffing PPE for some and tailoring business to suit the unprecedented new circumstances and to keep each other safe, it’s time to pack up our laptop bags and head back to work.

Helping your employees to transition back into the workplace will be just as important as setting up home working practices in the first place, that's why we're sharing our Top Ten Tips for welcoming your employees back to work after lockdown:

1. Be understanding

You need to remember that returning to the office after lockdown might be just as challenging for some employees as when they initially swapped the office for home. Spending time at home has become the new normal for many people and despite the nation feeling desperate for life to get back to normal, it doesn’t mean returning to work is easy. You need to understand that employees may be fearful of the risks, they may still have caring responsibilities or be shielding themselves due to their own health conditions. 

2. Keep everyone informed

It is likely your workplace is going to look and feel very different when your employees return, with changes needed to keep everyone safe and to meet the Government’s new guidelines. Keeping your workforce informed of these changes is incredibly important. You need to be clear about what is expected of them in terms of social distancing and hygiene maintenance. Tell them how your everyday business practices will change. Ideally you need to communicate this to them now, so that there won't be any surprises when they do return.

3. Follow Government guidance

The Government introduced COVID-19 guidelines for all UK employers to help them get their businesses back up and running and workplaces operating as safely as possible. The documents have been developed in consultation with more than 250 businesses, unions, industry leaders as well as devolved administrations, so take it seriously and encourage your employees to stick to the measures you introduce.

4. Think about your workplace set up

Despite many businesses opening their doors again, things are likely to look very different and remember that social distancing is still in place. What can you do to help your employees to keep their distance? It could be anything from introducing a rota so less employees are working from the office at once, rearranging desks so they are two metres apart, reducing the lift capacity, creating a one-way system for stairwells to displaying posters and floor stickers to remind everyone to keep their distance and to wear a mask.

5. Encourage home working if you can

If your colleagues can continue to work from home then they should do so for the foreseeable future. If they cannot work from home, could your business continue to use the Government’s Job Retention Scheme, commonly known as furlough, for longer? This will give you time to put the necessary safety measures in place and to implement a phased return to work for everyone.

Related: Top Ten Tips for Introducing Flexible Working

6. Engage with your colleagues

It’s worthwhile asking your employees what else they might need to make them feel safe at work. You need to give your colleagues the chance to raise any concerns they have. Going the extra mile will make your colleagues feel more confident about returning to the workplace. This could be anything from return to work questionnaires to daily temperature checks.

7. Continue to support their health and wellbeing

Your colleagues’ experience of lockdown may vary from person to person. It may have been stressful for some as they worked to keep the business afloat, demanding for parents working and home schooling and for others it may be been isolating and lonely. Offering access to counselling and other health and wellbeing initiatives has never been more important. If you haven’t been carrying out regular welfare checks then now is a good time to start. Back to work interviews may also help identify which employees need a helping hand.

8. Continue to be flexible

Pre-coronavirus you may have had strict shift schedules in place but lockdown has shown that not everyone delivers their best work on a nine-to-five schedule. You may have given your colleagues more flexibility to manage their lockdown schedule, especially if they have had children or other dependants to care for. Some people may have been more productive in the morning and others at night-time or by splitting their shift. If you feel you feel you have got more out of your employees by offering flexible working hours, then why not continue to do so post-COVID?

Related: Employment Law Update: COVID 19 - Mental Health and Wellbeing at Work

9. Take time to reflect

There’s no doubt that lockdown has been an incredible challenge for businesses but, like in all times of crisis, there are positives too. Our workplaces have changed massively in the past few months and they may never go back to how they were. But do you want them to? Take time to reflect on how your business and employees were positively impacted by lockdown. Were you impressed by how your team thought of creative new ways of working? Did you see a lot more team spirit and people looking out for each other? Were you impressed at employees’ productiveness while working from home?

10. Work on your team spirit

You may find that with staff working in isolation or maybe not at all while on furlough, team spirit is low. Or you may have a workforce who have shined during lockdown by working together in the face of adversity. Either way, it has been a stressful time for everyone and now is a good time to help your colleagues to get back on track or to harness the entrepreneurial spirit they have continued to show during lockdown. Building team spirit may be a challenge while social distancing is still in place, but that shouldn’t stop you looking at ways of bringing everyone together remotely.

How will you be welcoming your employees back to the workplace?

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