It’s been a rollercoaster 18 months for just about everyone in the UK, and our working lives have almost universally been affected by the pandemic. The pandemic has led to career changes and redundancies for some people, while others have been furloughed or working from home.
But as something approaching normality returns and employees begins to return to the office, employers must do everything they can to make that transition as comfortable as possible.
So what can organizations do to support their employees as they transition back to their usual places of work? Here are a few suggestions to help.
Create a Covid-safe workplace
The vaccination rollout may have been a success, but Covid still presents a genuine risk to our health, and that risk increases when we share indoor spaces with people outside of our immediate circles. Although anxiety levels will differ from one employee to the next, it’s essential to show that you’re taking the responsibility of creating a Covid-safe workplace very seriously.
Desks may have to be rearranged and systems implemented to create a one-way system for office traffic where possible. Due to the limited space that many workplaces have, you may also not be able to welcome the entire team back to the office simultaneously. That’s when a rota system that ensures only a safe number of employees are in the office is essential.
Create a comfortable environment
The return to the workplace is a time of heightened stress for many workers, which is why it’s so essential to create a welcoming and comfortable space. Taking practical steps such as making sure the office is spotlessly clean, removing any clutter, repainting the walls, adding some color, and generally making the place look and feel pleasant can all benefit mental health.
A lot of this coincides with current recommendations to increase social distancing between workers, so really lean into this (as much as physically possible) to create bright, open spaces. Another good trick is to use bright screens and boundaries that don’t feel like their primary purpose, for example, by camouflaging social distancing dividers with plants and greenery. This takes the sterile look off the boundaries, but research suggests that greening up the workplace by adding plants can reduce workplace stress and increase productivity by up to 15%.
Boost employee immune systems
Introducing healthy food into the office can also counter stress and help to shore up the immune system. Tapping into the inherent laziness we all experience during our slumps throughout the workday means we will snack on what is most readily available. You can use this to your advantage by helping staff load up on immune-boosting super fruits.
A recent study by the London-based office fruit provider, ‘Fruitful Office’ of 300+ employees across 15 businesses, revealed that over 70% of staff naturally ate more fruit when it was made readily available in the office. You will have the added benefit of boosting employee morale; the same study confirmed that 80% of staff interviewed confirmed they ‘felt more valued as an employee after the fruit baskets were made available for free.
Go the extra mile
Although many employees are keen to return to work sometimes, there are still plenty who aren’t. Organizations should avoid pressuring staff who are not ready to return to the office. Instead, they should go the extra mile to make them feel safe, respected, and heard.
For example, some organizations are going above and beyond the requirements and recommendations of the authorities to make their staff feel safe. That includes temperature checks for everyone entering the office and mandated mask-wearing in common areas. Others are providing staff with hazard pay to acknowledge the additional risks they are taking.
What is your company doing to ensure a safe return to the office? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.