Easing employees back into the workplace – what you need to know as an employer

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As restrictions begin to lift across the UK, employers should be thinking about the future of work and how best to help their employees as they return to the workplace after a long period of furlough or remote working.

According to the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD), employers must plan for any return to the workplace in a way that cares for their staff members and safeguards their health and wellbeing.

The HR experts at Breedon Consulting have highlighted five tips that businesses can use to ensure the successful integration of staff members, while taking into account the physical and mental wellbeing of workers and the options to support flexible and remote working where possible.

Managing director of Breedon Consulting, Nicki Robson, said: “Now restrictions are starting to lift, and the UK begins to transition into a way of life that feels more familiar than what we have experienced over the last 12 months, we must remember that everything will not just return to how it was pre-pandemic. Everything has changed and people have changed too.”

Five tips that businesses can use to ease employees back into the workplace

1. Ensure staff are happy and comfortable when returning to work

There are many steps employers can take to ensure employees are happy and comfortable when returning to work. Employers need to understand that leaving homes after a long period of time to return to the workplace, can stir up fear and anxiety in staff members. Conducting an employee engagement survey can provide insight into how employees are feeling. Return to work meetings and regular check-ins can help ease the pressure and allow employees to raise any concerns they may be having about returning to work.

2. Understand that management styles will differ

Management styles will vary significantly when overseeing teams onsite and remotely, and managers may find it much easier to supervise staff in an office environment with regular contact, as opposed to remote working. Many employees have seen a general lack of performance management whilst working from home, and so employers may benefit from giving management a refresher on good management practices, as well as performance management procedures.

3. Practice COVID-19 safety in the workplace

Business owners should be following all of the government guidelines regarding COVID-19 safety in the office, ensuring risk assessments are regularly reviewed in light of any new changes or announcements. Employers may see an increase in pandemic related office disputes and must have appropriate procedures in place to avoid escalation. Open communication is key to resolving any issues successfully.

4. Bolstering staff confidence following a long period of furlough.

Furloughed employees may have forgotten how to do certain aspects of their roles or may have missed out on changes that were implemented during their absence. It would be worthwhile for teams to undergo a comprehensive process of re-onboarding to help strengthen confidence, and refresh skills. Careful thought should be given to how best to do this, taking into account the circumstances of individual team members.

5. Mental health in the workplace

Mental health has been a real focus during the pandemic, with many experiencing issues such as heightened anxiety and depression since the start last March. Employers must take into account that absence and sickness rates may increase, with the added pressures of the daily commute and less time with family, and staff may take more time off for physical illness, as well as stress and mental health issues.
Employers should be on the lookout for symptoms of pandemic burnout, particularly among those who have continued working during the pandemic. Both staff and management should partake in initiatives targeted towards helping mental health in the workplace – from employee assistance programmes and structured wellbeing programmes, to adopting a hybrid working model and more flexible ways of working.

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