Transitioning Back to Office Work

transitioning back to office work

The Covid-19 pandemic put the entire business world into what feels like a big social experiment, shifting the model from a physical office into a remote one. (1) In Australia, nearly a third of offices worked from home during the pandemic. Employees worked through telecommuting, and a lot of companies found out that this model worked. Employees also enjoyed the newfound taste of flexibility and freedom that came from working from home.

But as the government is slowly getting COVID-19 under control and face-to-face contact in schools and offices is allowed, companies are looking into how best to adjust to a post-pandemic world. Some companies choose to stay remote, and some are coming back to the physical office. If your company is one of the latter, there are effective ways to make the post-pandemic transition to work in the office easier for your employees.

Contents

1. Give Your Employees Enough Notice

Communicate to your employees early and often (perhaps incorporate the topic in your online meetings) about the back-to-office strategy so everyone knows what to expect. Have a meeting to discuss whatever new policies and protocols the new office will have so they can get used to it. Allow your team to ask questions and try your best to answer each question because it goes a long way in reassuring your team members.

It might be good to use a phased approach for employees returning to work, especially those hired while the team was working remotely. Perhaps, in the beginning, your employees can go back to the office a few days a week, then you can ramp it up once your employees are more comfortable with it.

2. Adopt a Hybrid Work Environment

Working from home during the pandemic has given employees and businesses a taste for flexibility. A lot of them are finding out that this model works. However, there is also a need to come into a brick-and-mortar office for things like team collaboration that’s best-done face to face. However, there is a way to merge the two by adopting a hybrid environment. Perhaps you can create a flexible schedule that works for your team – for example, two days remote work and three days in the office. Big companies like (2) Google are adopting this hybrid work model and it is proving to be a good balance between remote and in-office work.

3. Relax the Dress Code Policy

To ease the transition to going back to the office after a year or so of working at home, it might help if your company implements a more relaxed dress code policy. During the pandemic, people have gotten used to wearing more comfortable and casual clothes while they work. The sudden shift of dressing up in office wear can be a challenge. Companies can meet their employees halfway by adopting a more relaxed dress code policy. Or, if possible, you can even implement a casual Monday or Friday. This slight change can contribute a lot to easing the pressure of coming back to work and feeling overwhelmed by too many changes all at once.

4. Provide a Safe Space for Your Team

During the work-from-home period, some of your team members might have rekindled their connection with family and enjoyed the extra time they spent with their children and significant others due to flexible working hours. Whilst for others the lockdowns and restrictions may have negatively impacted their mental health and wellbeing due to loneliness and other factors. Some team members may have even experienced being unwell with COVID-19 or may have lost loved ones without the possibility to say goodbye.

These experiences can manifest in different forms and can cause anxiety, depression or burnout. Your team might also need some time to adjust to being back at work, spending more face-to-face time and socialising with their colleagues on a more regular basis. Create a safe space in the office where people can adjust to being back at work and deal with their experiences while supporting their mental health and wellbeing. If required, your office can look into providing counselling to employees who need it.

5. Focus on Socialisation

One of the main disadvantages of working from home is not collaborating and socialising with your other team members in person. Sure, these things were done online, but the dynamics of face-to-face interaction are different. Missing the human factor is an important point to emphasise when transitioning from remote work to the office. To ease the transition back to work, during the first few days you can allocate some time for your team to socialise by organising team outings, game sessions or coffee catch-ups.

The Takeaway

Adjusting to the new normal and being back at the office after the pandemic can be challenging, especially when your employees spent most of last year working from home. However, the transition to the new normal can get underway with enthusiasm and a good strategy. If you need advice on other techniques for a smooth transition back to work, feel free to get in touch with us.

1 Retrieved October 23, 2021, from Roymorgan.com

2 Retrieved October 23, 2021, from Computerworld.com

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