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The sudden transition to remote work during the COVID-19 pandemic got everyone unprepared, particularly the corporate sector. Employers have to completely rely on technology and establish new remote work practices to make things work for employees, clients, and the overall success of the business. These steps include using project management tools and providing remote work equipment, such as laptops, personal computers, and personal cloud backups for data storage.
But as the pandemic gradually eases in some areas, more companies encourage their employees to return to the office. But the return to work policy has met a variety of responses, particularly from employees who refuse to abandon their home offices and flexible schedules. As a result, employers are facing unique challenges in supporting employees through the transition.
Uncertainty will likely remain high as the “old normal” returns to the corporate environment. Despite the widespread vaccinations and traces of “normalcy,” many workers still feel unsettled about returning to the office with newly established dynamics in place. To ensure a successful transition to in-office work, here are ways to make everything easier for employees.
How To Make The Return To Work Less Stressful
Keep It flexible
If there were one thing employees love about working from home, it would be having a flexible work schedule. Most employees would think that returning to the office would mean giving up this benefit, so some of them would likely reject the transition.
Priorities and routines have transformed for many since the onset of the pandemic. People have to navigate the “new normal” in terms of commute, schedules, grocery shopping, homeschooling, and childcare arrangements. Amid these changes, employees experienced a better work-life balance after foregoing the daily commute.
As the employer, it’s your job to make their work less stressful in these uncertain times. Delaying the transition back to the office can be challenging, but it’s important to make the process less abrupt for the staff. Returning to the office will be a tedious process, so expect the transition will take time. Keep the schedule flexible as employees return to the workplace to make the transition less stressful for them.
Consider creating a hybrid work schedule both for remote staff and the skeletal workforce. These include flexible work hours, alternative schedules, and new work arrangements. Also, be considerate of employees’ travel time when assigning deadlines and meetings.
Redesign The Work Environment
Nothing feels better about working in the comfort of your home. That’s why some employees are still reluctant about leaving their homes and going to the office every day. This would mean exposing themselves to the virus and putting their health at risk.
Although some states are gradually returning to normal, employers should still follow health standards and impose safety protocols in terms of sanitation, social distancing, and mask-wearing.
Start by updating the pandemic-related risk management policy. Consider opening unoccupied rooms or floors to spread out workstations in response to social distancing. Establish seating arrangement and capacity limits and maximize the floor space. Install dividers between desks and assign the maintenance staff to regularly sanitize each room, particularly the restroom, work desks, and high-touch surfaces. Also, don’t forget to put up signs to remind occupants about the building’s safety policies. These will help you to make the work less stressful.
Support Employees’ Mental Health
Making employees return to the office doesn’t happen over a few days or one week. Give them time to prepare and assess the situation, particularly for working parents. Returning to work would mean changing childcare arrangements, homeschooling for kids, and household chores. Allowing them to sort things out first shows your concern about their safety, well-being, and mental health.
Dealing with isolation and the economic challenges from the pandemic has been tough for everyone. This affected the behaviors and thoughts of many, leading to mental health concerns, such as pandemic fatigue. Some are experiencing stress, anxiety, inadequate sleep, lack of motivation, and difficulty concentrating.
As you welcome employees back to the office, consider setting up a mental health support program to help them manage the uncertainty involved in the in-office transition. Organize “welcome back” events where employees can rebuild connections with their managers and coworkers. This is also a great time to share their experiences and build workplace rapport again.
Working from home may be a dream for most employees, but this approach can be unproductive and inefficient for some enterprises. Before forcing employees to return to the office, it’s important to consider their needs first. They have supported your business during the pandemic. Now, it’s time to return the favor by treating them with empathy, gratitude, and patience.