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Supporting Employees Returning to the Office: Strategies for Business Owners

Startegies for employees returning back to office

In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, the landscape of work has undergone a profound transformation. Flexible work arrangements, once considered a perk, became a necessity overnight for most organizations in 2020. This transition posed unique challenges for small business owners who had to adapt without the resources of a dedicated human resources team or Employee Assistance Program (EAP). Now, as we stand at a pivotal moment in the future of work, the challenge for business owners is to define their own “new normal” while accommodating the diverse needs of their employees.

Whether your employees are eager to return to the office, prefer a mix of remote and in-office work, or are hesitant to return at all, this article offers valuable strategies to facilitate their transition back into the workplace.

For Employees Eager to Return

Acknowledge Their Enthusiasm: Celebrate and appreciate the enthusiasm of employees eager to resume office life. Recognize their willingness to return and be part of the workplace community.

Consider a Soft Return: Implement a gradual return-to-work strategy, allowing employees to acclimate to COVIDSafe practices and the new work environment without immediately resuming full workdays.

Address Reverse Culture Shock: Recognize that some returning employees may experience a “reverse culture shock” akin to expatriates re-entering their home country. Be patient and support them as they adjust to the evolving workplace.

Promote Equity: Ensure that employees working remotely do not feel penalized for their flexibility. Lead by example, working remotely occasionally if possible, and hold key meetings outside the office to emphasize your commitment to equitable practices.

Provide Training and Support: Offer training and resources to empower your team to excel in the hybrid work model. Consider their current needs, such as training for managing hybrid teams or mental health support.

Maintain Open Communication: Keep lines of communication open during the transition. Encourage feedback from returning employees to continuously improve the process.

For Employees Preferring Hybrid Work

Effective Communication: Establish clear communication guidelines for hybrid teams. Define expectations for meetings, collaboration, and working hours. Encourage employees to include their workdays in their email signatures.

Tailored Support: Engage directly with employees to understand their motivations for remote and in-office work. Customize your support to align with their preferences and career goals.

Regular Contact: Maintain consistent contact with remote workers through phone, email, or online meetings. Ensure they stay connected and informed about updates they might miss when working offsite

For Employees Reluctant to Return

Understand Reluctance: Acknowledge that after a year of remote work, many employees may have reservations about returning to the office. Respect their concerns and consider their preferences.

Consult and Compromise: Develop a return-to-work strategy by consulting with staff and leaders. Understand their individual needs and circumstances, and aim for a compromise that accommodates their preferences.

Safety and Wellbeing: Prioritize the physical and mental safety and wellbeing of returning employees. Implement safety measures and ensure that workers feel secure in their workplace.

Clear Communication: Be well-informed about safety protocols and transparent in your communication. Encourage employees to voice their concerns and provide opportunities for them to contribute to decision-making.

Reiterate Benefits: Remind employees of the advantages of office work, such as face-to-face collaboration, ergonomic setups, and clearer work-life boundaries. Highlight elements of their role that they may have previously enjoyed.

Avoid Uncertainty: Be mindful of language and statements that create unnecessary anxiety, such as predictions that “the workplace will never be the same again.” Provide a clear vision of the future workplace to alleviate uncertainty.

In this pivotal moment in the future of work, business owners who prioritize their employees’ needs, maintain open communication, and offer tailored support will foster a workplace environment that encourages engagement, retention, and a successful transition back to the office.

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