5 Tips for Transitioning Employees Back to the Office
July 15th, 2021
As vaccination rates increase and COVID cases continue to decline, we’ve entered a new phase of the pandemic. In large parts of the country, we’re starting to see “the light at the end of the tunnel.” This has led many states to begin easing up on capacity restrictions for indoor environments. For many businesses, this will mean a return to the office in the near future.
There are many factors to consider when deciding whether to keep a permanent remote working policy or to bring employees back into the office. Some employers may feel that working remotely has been an overall positive for their company, while others may feel that there’s truly no substitute for in-person collaboration. If you decide to bring your employees back to the office, it’s important to understand that some of your employees may find it challenging to adjust after spending over a year working at home. The following tips will help make the transition as smooth as possible.
Provide Plenty of Notice
Sending an email to your employees telling them that they’re returning to the office next week will be problematic for many workers. It may take time for some people to arrange for childcare, especially during the summer months when school isn’t in session. There will also be some mental preparation involved in returning to the office as routines dramatically shift.
The more time you give your team to process this change, the better. Clear, transparent communication throughout the transition process is crucial. Make sure all expectations are clearly stated every step of the way. This should include all proposed timelines associated with returning to the office.
Make Safety a Priority
While it may seem like things are changing rapidly, we’re not completely out of the pandemic just yet. There are still new COVID cases being reported, and it’s unclear how effective the vaccines will be against some of the new variants that have developed. Therefore, there is still a safety risk to evaluate when bringing employees back into the office.
As you create your transition strategy, it’s important to include safety protocols that will alleviate many of these risks and make employees feel comfortable returning to an office environment. Some safety protocols to consider include:
- Enforcing a mask-wearing policy
- Setting up sanitizing stations around the office
- Spreading out employees so that cubes are socially distanced
- Encouraging employees to work from home if they feel sick
- Allowing employees to bring their own coffee pots, dishes and utensils to reduce the use of communal items
If any employees raise safety concerns with you, take the time to listen to them and work out solutions that address all of their concerns. The safer you can make your employees feel, the more likely they are to embrace a return to the office.
Have a Gradual Transition Back into the Office
The transition to remote work at the start of the pandemic came abruptly. Without any advanced warning, companies and employees were forced to adapt on the fly. In many instances, there were growing pains as it took time for companies to establish a remote working protocol.
Fortunately, there’s no need for the transition back to the office to be equally abrupt. You have the ability to take the time to plan out this process and ensure it runs smoothly. Take as much time as you need to think through the most effective ways to ease your team back into office life, and don’t move forward until you have a fully developed plan.
One effective way to make the return to the office smooth is to allow employees to gradually transition back. The energy expended during a commute is much different than the energy expended working at home. It may take awhile for your team to get back into the flow of being in the office. To help them get used to this change, you may want to consider starting out with a hybrid system where employees work a few days in the office and a few days at home each week. Over time, you can slowly increase the number of days in the office as you see your team adjusting to the pace and energy of office life once again.
Include Your Employees in the Process
Listening to the needs of your employees is an important way to make this transition successful. This is a decision that significantly impacts employee health and well-being, and they should feel empowered to provide input on how this process will work. Set up committees where employees are able to present ideas regarding how they feel the transition will work best for them. Present your team with several options and ask them which ones they prefer.
The more you involve them in the transition process, the more likely they are to buy in. Make sure the plan you adopt is employee-centric and focuses on their needs as much as the needs of the company. In addition, be open to creating customized return-to-work plans for any employees with special needs. This will help your team maintain an ideal work-life balance, which is very important to many workers.
There is no one-size-fits-all plan for returning to the office after the pandemic. Your plan must align with the needs of your business and your employees, your company culture, the prevalence of COVID cases in your area, and many other factors. It’s possible that your initial plans may overlook some important items, and you may need to adjust your transition plan on the fly to address these concerns. By staying flexible and adapting in real-time as your team returns to the office, you can more effectively set them up for success.
Premier Employer Services Can Help with Your Transition Plan
At Premier Employer Services, we offer comprehensive employee engagement and HR consulting services to set your business up for success. We understand the challenges the last year and a half have presented businesses, and we’ve been there every step of the way to help them navigate the pandemic. We’re also here to help you transition back to the office as the world opens back up.
Our exclusive Elevated Engagement Plus Approach™ is focused on helping you create a more successful and inspired organization. As part of this approach, we take the time to understand the unique needs and challenges associated with your company. We’ll also spend a great deal of time learning about your company culture. This process allows us to provide customized recommendations that will best meet the needs of your team.
While you have the right to expect your employees to return to the office, it’s important to help them transition back in a way that makes them comfortable and sets them up for success. At Premier Employer Services, we’ll help you evaluate all of the important factors involved in this transition to ensure it goes smoothly and is embraced by your team.
Contact us today to schedule a free consultation. We provide employee engagement and HR consulting services to businesses in Denver and the surrounding areas of Colorado.