Intro’s 6 top tips for employers and employees returning to the office.
7:30am hits and your alarm rings. You slowly roll from the comfort of your bed. Amid the COVID-19 chaos you’ve been enjoying an extra hours’ sleep to what your usual morning routine guarantees. Your ‘working from home’ (WFH) routine involves spending a quick 10 minutes washing and dressing before jumping in front of your computer just in time for your scheduled 8am team meeting over Zoom. You haven’t had to worry about traffic in the morning, you have had the freedom to exercise at lunch and have happily snacked straight from your fridge all day – sounds familiar right?
As restrictions begin to ease, a return to regular work-life is imminent for workers across the country. Many businesses have struggled with productivity levels with staff working remotely and self-isolating, so will welcome the shift back to the way things were. However, while it seems like a breath of fresh air knowing some normality in life is just over the horizon, a reintroduction to office life for some may be troublesome if not planned for accordingly. Additionally, Data from the software company Box shows a major shift from working away from the office is the traditional nine-to-five office hours.
So, while the way we work may have changed forever, where does this leave employers and employees over the next few months?
Firstly, those making the transition back to work need a plan to help maintain and fight risks such as fatigue and motivation levels given ‘WFH’ has introduced more flexibility into the day. Secondly, everyone needs to work together – this has been an incredibly stressful time for many reasons and now, more than ever, employees and employers need to communicate openly and honestly to make sure everyone is on the same page moving forward.
Whether you are an employer or employee, having a plan before being reintroduced to the office is essential. Taking these practices into consideration when planning to come back will make the transition smoother for everyone.
Here are Intro’s recommendations to help employers and employees successfully transition back to work:
- Be realistic – Working from home allowed more freedom throughout the day for your employees. Employers need to understand the transition from a home setting to a traditional 8 hour working day in the office will be tough at first. It is unrealistic to think the normality of working in the office will run smoothly to begin with. Those who have been ‘WFH’ will find themselves fatigued during their first week back. Getting your staff up and moving will set refreshed on their mindset to help adjust to an office environment at a desk again.
- Rebuild morale – For some staff who have been away for weeks or months, the idea of returning to work can be unsettling. In some cases, staff members have been let go and others will be heading back to their jobs, but without some of their friends or colleagues. Reporting structures and hierarchies may have also changed in the office. It is important for leaders to invest in efforts to rebuild the workplace morale. Listen and act on any concerns made by employees and offer reassurance. There are many ways morale can be heightened, and it can be as simple as offering praise to an employee. Promoting workplace achievements, setting clear goals that are met with awards, collaborating more across teams and most importantly, painting a positive vision for the future. Once able, organise a team event and celebrate your success and let off some steam with your staff members.
- Trust your employees – Although we have encouraged getting your staff up and moving while also interacting with them, there comes a time to give them space. Everyone has dealt with what has happened during the COVID-19 pandemic differently. Some people have had holidays cancelled, some have wedding plans up in the air and some are simply exhausted and confused. Studies suggest that those working from home worked best in short bursts. Try and alternate between periods of contact and periods of leaving your staff time to get on with their work. Employers worried about productivity must have trust in their teams that they will get on with it and keep pushing forward.
- Make the mental shift – Whether you struggled ‘WFH’ or embraced it, you are going to have to make the psychological shift. While you may not agree with coming back into the office or if you have simply gotten used to ‘WFH’, take advantage of the opportunities to see your colleagues and friends again (from 1.5m away). Make the most of the resources you are given within an office environment and you’ll make more of an impression on your leaders (who will also likely be under great pressure) by showing resilience and enthusiasm for your job.
- Adapt your time management approach to improve efficiency – Working remotely is a new concept for a lot of people and businesses. Some were prepared, others not so much. A positive from ‘WFH’ is that an Australian study suggests 70 per cent of Australians believe their productivity was the same if not higher than an office environment. Knowing you had a task to do and the responsibility held on you to do so unsupervised found workers giving more to their work. They also believe that implementing more exercise into their daily routine has allowed them to be more productive when it came to work. Finding the motivation to get outside exercising because it was exempt of the restrictions was new for many. Bring that mentality and drive when returning to an office environment. Use your new approach and continue your time management focus in an office lifestyle. Get together with your colleagues and create a fitness plan, manage your task like you would from home rewarding yourself when you can and set out daily goals. Work smarter not harder.
- Introduce your learnings – A benefit COVID-19 has had on businesses is strengthening their collaborative approach across teams, services and systems. This has created a more productive working routine and reinforced healthier practices. Using similar virtual methods to collaborate work in person will help build stronger connections across the business. Employees should now encourage and adapt that approach into an office environment and work as a cross-functioning platform. Share your ideas, and work with other staff and leaders. Walking into an office again should not change that mentality or approach to your work.
Whether you’re an employer or employee looking for some advice on how to make the transition, contact the team here at Intro. We love helping our clients and candidates perform their best when things may seem at their worst – we are all in this together.