1. Adapt the workplace
Before inviting staff back to the workplace, review the layout and organisation of work to reduce the spread of viruses such as COVID-19. There may need to be more space between workstations, a thorough and regular cleaning schedule and signs letting staff know the measures they can take to feel safer and protect themselves.
Many organisations relied on online platforms to communicate and collaborate with colleagues, so the workplace will now need to consider these new ways of working and allow for them. For example, headsets or private spaces may be required for online calls and meetings.
2. Explore ways to prevent infection
Raising awareness around the risks of spreading infection and promoting ways to prevent it are encouraged by the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work (EU-OSHA).
If new practices have been put in place at work, make sure expectations around health and safety are clearly communicated before and during the return to work to avoid any confusion among employees. Signposting new cleaning protocols, hot desk systems, mask use and other new policies will help to make your staff feel comfortable and safe.
3. Take the return to work step by step
Your employees may have been working from a range of different locations over the past year and a half, and returning to the usual place of work could be a shock. To accommodate the big change in their daily routines, consider asking staff to visit the workplace gradually to allow them to adjust and re-familiarise themselves with the new environment. This could mean starting with one day at work per week and increasing it by another day every few months.
Not only will this allow staff to integrate commutes back into their lives, but it will also allow time to organise other commitments such as childcare around the new schedule.
4. Have a plan!
There has been a lot of uncertainty throughout the pandemic, but having a plan to manage future outbreaks and other health emergencies can help to reduce concerns and anxiety at work. Your plan should address how the business will adapt and continue to run if there is a reduced number of workers due to health issues or local travel restrictions. It should also include guidelines for sick leave and information and support that staff can access.
Once you have a plan in place, make sure to share it with all members of the business. This will improve trust and confidence in the organisation, as well as help to answer queries employees may have.
5. Promote available support
After the pandemic, the workplace may not operate in the same way that it used to, which will leave employees with a lot of questions. When communicating operational changes, consider offering opportunities for colleagues to ask questions and access reliable information. Their enquiries could be directed to senior members of staff or the HR department, or shared privately in a one-on-one call.
Promoting good wellbeing practices is another way to motivate staff following the health crisis, which was isolating and lonely for many.
For more information about returning to the workplace following the pandemic, see Our top 5 tips for employees returning to the workplace.
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- Publication date
- 5 January 2022
- European Labour Authority | Directorate-General for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion
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