The return to work – key considerations for a successful transition back to the workplace

As lockdown restrictions ease and employees begin their return to work, employers are facing a new wave of challenges. COVID-19 has created a lot of uncertainty and doubt about what life will look like after Coronavirus lockdown. So it is essential for employers to make the necessary workplace adjustments to ensure a safe transition back to work.

Our survey ‘What would make you feel safe in an office environment’ highlighted 3 key areas to consider when planning the return to work:

1. Understand the needs and concerns of employees

Understanding what really matters to your employees in this new environment is key. Technology, policies, and processes will need change to ensure employees feel safe when returning to the workplace. Leaders will need to take responsibility to understand the needs and concerns of employees if they want to ensure a successful transition. Providing support for employee well-being and mental health will be an on-going priority.

2. Redesigning work spaces

For employees, returning to work will not necessarily be easy. Companies must create a safe working environment that gives people the confidence to return to work safely and to adjust to a new virtual/physical hybrid way of working.

Employers need to adhere to social distancing guidelines by redesigning physical work spaces. Our survey revealed that 57% of respondents indicated that ‘having as few people on site as possible’ would make them feel ‘very safe’ or ‘noticeably safer’. In addition to this, 58% of respondents indicated that ‘having the office laid out in a way that allows employee to work further apart’ would improve feelings of safety.

Importantly, employers will need to rethink their approach to agile working and the use of hot desking as a huge 70% of respondents indicated a preference for ‘having dedicated desks only’.

And employers need to ensure that hand sanitiser is readily available in the workplace. Our survey found that nearly three quarters of participants (72%) would like to see hand sanitiser provided for each employee and available easily within the work environment.

3. Make ongoing adjustments

But returning to work is just the beginning . It is important that leaders continue to monitor feelings of safety and make adjustment from feedback gathered. Employers must be prepared to make on-going changes to processes and policies as employees begin to use office spaces again and interact with each other at work. Organisations should plan for a phased return with the ability to respond to unforeseen events. Leaders should see this not as a time to return to “normal”, but an opportunity to rethink, re-engineer, and improve future operations.

As government guidelines continue to change frequently, employers need to ensure they are following the most up to date guidelines and recommendations. Returning to work creates an opportunity for organisations to embrace innovation and develop new capabilities. The most successful organisations will be those who can reinvent themselves and adapt to a new normal.

If you would like to read the full survey report and its findings, please do get in touch.