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Updated on: Saturday, October 09, 2021, 07:59 PM IST

Return to work: Here's what employers can do to allay fears of employees in time of COVID

Flexibility in the approach regarding work from home versus compulsorily asking employees to report to work in the office will help in improving productivity and overall team positivity. |

Flexibility in the approach regarding work from home versus compulsorily asking employees to report to work in the office will help in improving productivity and overall team positivity. |

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Organisations are slowly gearing up to welcome back their employees to offices, albeit in a hybrid manner for now. Since there is no well-developed screenplay for this transition, the question is that how do they make the workplaces fully operational while making them feel welcomed and safe? How do organizations make themselves look, feel, and function differently?

Well, the business leaders need to think of how they felt returning to school after their summer vacations. There was, perhaps, excitement to meet friends, nervousness as well as a feeling of restlessness about a new schedule. It was, certainly, a bittersweet blend of anticipation and nerves. Similarly, fast forward to the corporate life, magnify all the above by an unprecedented break, a fully but ‘not-so-normal’ WFH schedule, and genuine concern for safety. Probably, this is what it’s going to feel like as the employees begin to work from the office again. Hence, placing importance on a warm welcome with assurance on safety should be the priority now more than ever. The leaders require a well-defined plan that maintains safety, manages resources, and rebuilds the morale of the workforce.

Here are some suggestions:

Being flexible is the key

It may not come as a surprise that there may still be governmental issuances and regulations depending on the area professionals live in. Hence, it’s very important to understand and be patient with employees who may have to extend their WFH status in case they don’t have the resources to get back to the office on short notice. By being open to creative time management organizations can help in building trust in the workplace environment. The firms might even discover that flexibility in the approach further helps in improving productivity and overall team positivity.

Hygiene on priority

In case, if the office has designated setups or cubicles, ensure that the employees return to ‘welcome back gifts’ along with clean and sanitized desks. There isn’t anything that is less inviting than a muddled or disordered workplace, especially if the workers left within a short span of time when the pandemic struck. Make health supplies accessible to each and every one. Keep hand sanitizers at every desk and share with workers how the organization is proceeding to remain cautious with regards to COVID-19 prevention. For instance, establishing more incessant office cleanings or installing air purifiers.

More interactive sessions

It’s a no-brainer that after being cooped up inside the four walls of the homes ever since the pandemic took the world by storm, professionals need some quality time to bond with their team and rekindle their equations. This is why interactive sessions or team-building exercises play a significant role for workers returning after months/years of working from their comfort zones. The firms may discover that when the teammates are allowed to be more interactive, they get more work done and feel energized in the process too. Interactive sessions and little celebrations from time to time are an amazing way to break the ice, boost morale, and foster understanding.

Many reports have also shown that the majority of the employees cite fruitless communication and ineffective collaboration as a prime reason for workplace failures. Hence, if the traditional work surrounding didn’t approve of the idea of socialization and discussion during work hours, those firms now ought to consider permitting these exercises with safety protocols in place since individuals are back in the workplace.

Check on the mental health of the employees

The emotional and mental well-being of working professionals is a critical subject; therefore, companies must keep it in check. Undoubtedly, if an employee is mentally stressed, s/he won’t be able to work to the best of his ability. Appreciation and encouraging feedback are necessary to keep the work stress-free, and hence, positive reinforcement acts as a great method to reignite the workplace culture. After all, employees are the greatest asset for an organization. Therefore, firms must make sure that their employees can talk about anything that concerns them at all times. Sessions and support around emotional resilience and psychological safety need to be continued.

Listen to employees' issues

The most critical thing is to let the employees have their say and listen to their issues, be it regarding anything. Roll out an employee survey not just about their favored working plans but also about more extensive issues such as how can the firm best support them. It is critical to acknowledge that workforce expectations are evolving, and redefining policies, practices, way of working will go a long way in engaging the workforce.

(Sonica Aron is Founder & Managing Partner of Marching Sheep-HR Consulting firm)

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Published on: Saturday, October 09, 2021, 07:59 PM IST
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