On the 24th of March the UK went into lockdown; something we didn’t expect for 2020. With the COVID pandemic sweeping across the globe it was clear that our country needed to take action, including taking measures to keep staff safe.
We all sat in front of our TV screens watching Boris announce that if you can work from home, you should do. And that message still stands, although it’s becoming increasingly important that companies start to bring their staff off furlough and back into the workplace. However, it’s probably going to look a little different than it did at the start of March.
Businesses are advised to keep to social distancing rules which has been reduced from 2m to 1m. As well as this, plastic screens, an abundance of hand sanitiser and one-way systems are reducing contact and the potential spread of germs. Adhering to these new ‘normal’ processes won’t take long as we’re already used to this lifestyle, however, it’s returning to work itself that’s causing some anxiousness amongst staff who’ve been furloughed or working from home.
As with anyone who is out of work for a period of time, returning to the workplace can be a worrying thought. For some, it’s not as simple as ‘picking up where they left off’ and companies have had to be flexible to changing demand over the last few months, so the current workload might be alien to employees compared to Q1 2020.
So, how do companies ensure that their staff are eased back into their daily routine when they return to work?
An obvious answer is a return to work meeting or briefing. It’s important that managers speak with their employees about the current changes to the workplace, the new rules and processes as well as any priority work that needs to be completed. Without giving employees a run-down of what’s happened whilst they’ve been away, it can feel overwhelming for them to return to a ‘normal’ that no longer is.
Secondly, flexibility is key. With some people struggling to find childcare with schools still closed, it’s important for employers to recognise this and be accommodating of those needs. Ultimately, there is still a pandemic out there and a virus that has already wreaked havoc on the economy and people’s health. Lockdown has shown employers that working from home can be effective and trusting your employees to work autonomously and remotely doesn’t have to be negative.
Team building or an outing might not be on the top of the priority list right now, but it’s been a while since staff and employees have seen each other. Not only that, but morale will be low given the situation that has affected people in many ways than one. Planning a team outing, even just for a lunch-date, can give staff something to look forward to and that opportunity to catch-up post lockdown.
Being approachable to your staff is extremely important. It’s not been an easy year for many of us and having someone in the workplace that staff feel comfortable approaching and sharing any issues with is vital. If left, these issues could manifest into it seeming as though employees don’t have the right attitude or that they’ve simply lost the motivation to complete their work, however, this isn’t always the case. It’s important to remember that as humans we all deal with these situations in different ways, therefore as managers and leaders we need to be mindful of this and open to helping employers get through the next few months.
Finally, training and development will be a huge benefit to staff who’ve been ‘out of practice’ and may be a little hesitant to throw themselves back into the daily grind. Having someone in the team on offer to help with any processes and procedures that are no longer habit, could be important to keep the company running smoothly and efficiently. If there are members who are struggling to ease back into the swing of things, then ensure they have the right resources and help on hand to make the transition back to work as easy as possible.
Lockdown was always going to start coming to an end and there’s now a focus on resuming back to our pre-COVID way of life. Businesses should be mindful that staff will be cautious about returning to work, not only due to the pandemic but because like anyone who’s been out of work for a few months, habits change. Being mindful of the situation and ensuring that staff are prepared to start work again, are key to allowing people to flourish once back into the workplace.