What can businesses do to create a harmonious return to the workplace?

Ezra, the leading provider of digital coaching, has highlighted three simple areas that businesses should address when it comes to creating a fear-free, smooth transition back to the physical workplace.

Now that the UK government has lifted most, if not all of the Covid-19 safety restrictions related to the workplace, many businesses are requesting that their staff return to the office after a long spell of remote working.

But according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), employees are still keen for their employers to maintain cautious safety measures.

76% of employees state that they want to see enhanced cleaning procedures in the workplace. 70% want to know that their offices are going to be well-ventilated. 65% want a limit on the number of people allowed in the workplace at any one time, and 60% want those in the office to continue adhering to social distancing rules.

In response, businesses have outlined what safety precautions they intend to implement as staff return to the office. 57% of businesses say they’ll insist on strict social distancing measures, 52% say that enhanced cleaning and hygiene precautions will be in place, and 45% say PPE will be used throughout the office. Meanwhile, 22% say they won’t insist on any safety precautions at all, while 10% are yet to decide what, if anything, to do.

Direct Covid-19 safety precautions are one thing, but for staff who are returning to the workplace after a long time away, a more wide-reaching, holistic set of precautions and actions are going to be required to ensure everyone is happy and healthy in the office. Along with the safety of individuals, organizations also need to take note of workplace safety. After closing the premises for more than a year, most of the safety equipment might need a replacement or maintenance. Consider the Australian business BIG Safety, who can supply all the materials that are required for Covid-19 safety, portable eyewash, body sprays, PPE kits, safety cabinets, and other equipment needed in case of emergencies.

Identify and address stress points

Stress and anxiety are going to be more prevalent than ever. Employees need to know that it’s okay to feel these things – they’re not alone and their employer will work hard to help them settle back in and manage any heightened levels of stress. This requires employers to identify what is causing stress and then take actions to reduce it.

Clear and open communication channels

To this end, staff should also feel free to communicate with each other and their employers. They should be encouraged to express how they’re feeling upon returning to work, and also to tell others in the office if they are personally choosing to continue taking strict safety precautions without fear of being mocked or punished for doing so.

Communication works to lighten the burden of worry and also lets people know that they’re not alone in what they’re feeling. A problem shared is a problem halved.

Gradual implementation, routine and weekly reviews

Finally, it’s important to take things slowly and not rush the process of returning to a ‘normal’ working lifestyle. This can be done by keeping things simple and maintaining a good daily routine in the early days back in the office. When humans are forced to change, simple, clear tasks and instructions can mitigate much of the related anxiety, and daily structure enables them to tackle the return in manageable, tangible stages.

In addition to a clear daily routine, weekly goals and reviews can enable any issues to be dealt with before they snowball, as well as allowing your company to pivot to perfect their procedure of returning to the workplace.

The best way to address any potentially sensitive issues is through direct but anonymous employee feedback to help influence company policy to better serve those working at the heart of it.

Founder of Ezra, Nick Goldberg, commented:

“As we return to the workplace, much is being said about what safety measures will be taken to ensure the spread of Covid-19 is mitigated as much as possible. But less has been said about the thoughts, feelings and mental health of those being asked back to the office.

While some people will take to it like fish to water, others will struggle. If so, they will require and deserve compassionate and proactive leadership and an environment that considers their needs, as much as though with little worry or fear of returning.

There’s no one definitive approach that will work across a multitude of sectors and so a personalised approach built on a few core principles is the best starting point for any business.”

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