Initially, working from home was difficult for employees used to commuting, constant supervision, and being confined to a dedicated workspace. Yet, over time, employees and employers were surprised to discover that working from home promotes productivity and that the flexibility of the schedule leads to greater efficiency. Many companies are now negotiating new scheduling policies that allow their employees to work from home and office.
Even with a new plan, employees will eventually need to return to the office. This means that you have a big role to play in ensuring they feel safe and have a safe environment to relax and concentrate on their work. Be transparent with them about the commercial cleaning services, the new COVID-19 safeguards, and any assistance the company can offer to ease the transition.
Try to work on a reduced timeline that does not make employees feel rushed. Gradual implementation is much less likely to see pushback and be adopted with a minimum of difficulties.
Develop a schedule with your management staff and then cut it in half before approaching your employee supervisors. They can advise you on whether their subordinates are prepared for such a schedule or need further adjustment.
One day a week at the office, then two days, till the employees are at the office for a week on and a week off is a good way to begin. It gives everyone a chance to get into a rhythm. You will find it easier to develop a new scheduling policy once everyone experiences what it is like to be in the office.
The employees and their supervisors will find it easier to know which employees can work better from spending more time in the office versus at home and vice versa.
Listen to your employees and avoid outright rejection of new ideas that do not immediately appeal to you. If your employees have demonstrated that they are more than capable of managing themselves and their workload and have maintained productivity, then they have more than proven themselves.
This is a stressful time, and many people are afraid for their lives. Thus, you must be open-minded to how people want to stay safe while still being good employees. Explore their ideas and work on creating an office clean and safe for your employees’ mental well-being.
Your employees work for you, but this does not mean that you can dictate how a person takes chances. If your company is not ready to take responsibility for an employee catching COVID-19 in your office or on their commute to your building, then you are not ready to bring your employees back to the office.
Clearly communicate why you want their return and how you will ensure their safety. Develop a rationale for the return to the workspace that makes sense. Wanting to be able to see people at their desks is not sensible or rational. If your employees are more productive at home, then your only reason for bringing them in is that you like to see them in the office, then you need to work on yourself before putting your employees at risk.
Suppose you cannot logically explain your reasons for returning to the workspace that benefits the company and the employees. Reconsider moving back the schedule until you have consulted with business management experts.
Write out a clear policy and guidelines document and send it to every employee. Assign someone to manage the return to work activities and allow them flexibility and authority in making decisions for individual cases.
Also, give them the resources necessary to provide employees with counseling within the office. Many people will have experienced stress and dread at the change, and it is a good idea to provide professional help for them to deal with this transition. Allow your transition manager to take time to go over safety guidelines with each employee department. This is a key step in ensuring the guidelines are understood and followed, so the time taken to do this is well-spent.
Entrance policies, social distancing, office layout, and managing meetings where people have to be in one space will undergo changes. This will take time to implement.
Communication and compassion are the most important factors in ensuring the success of your return-to-office plan. There is a good chance that many of your employees have suffered losses due to the pandemic. Thus, they will be even more in need of reassurance that their safety and well-being matter to you and are safeguarded by the company.
A seamless transition does not mean making them follow your plans. It means working with employees to ensure that your mutual goals are aligned and to find ways to achieve them in a way that fosters loyalty and respect among all your employees.