COVID-19: How to Help Your Team Transition Back to the Office
By Megan Bandy
When businesses were first required to work remotely, it proved to be a difficult adjustment for many. However, now as many are transitioning back into the office, many seem to be having an equally difficult time re-adjusting. While office culture and collaboration changed for many teams the past year, most gained opportunities to experience certain perks that in-office work couldn’t offer. Many have enjoyed the change of scenery-- considering themselves more productive, more relaxed, and able to have a better work-life balance.
Although coming back to the office will be hard for many people, you can make the transition easier by having a robust plan in place. Your focus should be on keeping your team healthy and happy by implementing considerate changes to ease stress.
Update your office’s COVID-19 preparedness
While a return to the office must comply with local COVID-19 ordinances, it’s also important that precautions are in place to keep employees healthy upon return. Going above and beyond by caring for your employees’ health will not only ensure that fewer of them are sick, but will also help everyone feel valued, supported, and safe in the workplace.
Regarding hygiene, you should provide plenty of access to soap and towels to encourage regular hand washing. Similarly, there should be hand sanitizer readily available and shared or frequently used surfaces should be cleaned often. If your team is responsible for keeping their area clean, provide cleaning supplies for the office to make it easier to keep everything as sanitary as possible.
While most of us are aware of social distancing guidelines, it can be difficult to know how they apply to work environments-- especially if space feels limited. Because it’s important that everyone has a minimum of 6 feet to themselves, you should intentionally limit the number of people in-office to maintain appropriate space. You can help encourage distance by marking the 6-foot distance between desks or by posting signs that help the flow of traffic move in one direction around the office. Distancing can be difficult for people to remember or enjoy, especially if it’s been a while since they’ve seen their coworkers and want to catch up. Try to keep things fun and social as much as possible by holding meetings outside, encouraging chit-chat via slack or from a distance, and holding fun team activities that encourage collaboration. Learn more about building your team culture here.
Although more people are getting vaccinated, it is still recommended to encourage employees to stay home if they do not feel well. Rather than creating an environment that encourages employees to “tough it out”, prioritize their health and well-being. If you keep your team healthy, you’re sure to see better productivity and success.
Learn more about the recommendations for readying your office by checking out the CDC’s current guidelines here.
Adapt the culture
While safely preparing your office should be the main priority, don’t neglect to consider the importance of helping employees readjust to in-office life. A strong, collaborative culture is essential to your team’s happiness and effectiveness. It’s likely why many companies had a difficult time when first adapting to remote working at the start of the pandemic. Learning to adapt your culture to fit your team’s situation will help ease the uncertainty brought about by COVID-19.
As everyone readjusts to working in-office, even if only part-time, you should reinstill some practices from before the pandemic. If you went to lunch with your colleagues on a regular basis, try finding ways to incorporate this back into your culture by catering a meal once a week or eating together outside. People are likely to feel comfortable more quickly when you reestablish your pre-pandemic team-building activities.
Learn more about building a culture of empathy by checking out our full-length ebook.
Consider a hybrid-model
It can be challenging to balance a partially remote team since you’ll need to approach managing in-person and remote employees in different ways, while also working to maintain a cohesive team. However, it could be of great benefit to adopting a hybrid model--where employees work partly in-office and partly remote. Doing so will allow for easier social distancing and lowered health risks. Many people have come to enjoy working from home, and adopting a hybrid model may benefit your employee’s well-being and work-life balance. Regardless of where your employees are working, keep your team connected by implementing some remote culture team-building activities that can help keep everyone connected. You can learn more about these in our remote-culture blog post here.
Focus on well-being
This past year has been difficult and chaotic for a lot of people--it’s important to keep that in mind as people adjust to working in-office again. Instead of focusing on numbers and efficiency during this transition, turn your attention to your employees’ well-being. Keeping them healthy and happy will only be beneficial to your company’s success; take the time to plan the best strategy for your team while connecting with them on a personal level. By doing so, you can help bring some compassion and stability to a trying time.
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