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. For some people, the pandemic has led to career changes and redundancies, while others have been furloughed or working from home.
But as something approaching normality returns and employees begin to return to the office, employers must do everything they can to make that transition as comfortable as possible.
So what can organisations do to support their employees as they transition back to their normal 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 very real 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 important 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 at the same time. 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 important 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 colour and generally making the place look and feel pleasant can all be beneficial to mental health.
A lot of this coincides with current recommendations to increase social distancing between workers also, so really lean into this (as much as physically possible) to create bright, open spaces. Another good trick is to make use of clever screens and boundaries that don’t feel like that’s their primary purpose. For example, by camouflaging social distancing dividers with plants and greenery. This not only takes the sterile look off the boundaries but research actually 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 the impact of stress and help to shore up the immune system. By tapping into the inherent laziness we all experience during our slumps throughout the workday means we will snack on what is most readily available to us. 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 some of the time, there are still plenty who aren’t. Organisations 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 organisations are going above and beyond the requirements and recommendations of the authorities to make their staff feel safe. That includes steps such as 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.