Going back to the office after such a long time away is and will continue to be difficult. With that in mind, below are some tips to help you manage the post-covid return.
Step 1: Work on bettering work/life balance
This is the most important part of making the post-covid workplace return successful because it involves improving work-life balance while ensuring that job duties get done properly. Here are some ideas that can help improve work/life balance for employees at your business:
a) Providing flexible working hours when necessary, depending on how much stuff needs to be done to ensure optimal productivity
b) Allowing employees to have health days when they are feeling particularly off, particularly if they are suffering from the effects of brain fog.
c) Letting them take intermittent breaks in between tasks to stretch or grab a coffee with a friend
d) Asking them if there’s any way you can help with their current projects so they don’t feel overwhelmed.
e) Making sure managers are able to give employees constructive, actionable feedback so they can grow
f) Providing on-site childcare if parents require an extra hand
Step 2: Establish an open dialogue between staff members
Establishing an open dialogue between staff members ensures that people will feel comfortable discussing their feelings with others. This can be especially helpful if someone is experiencing symptoms related to PTSD (Post-traumatic Stress Disorder), which were caused by the events during the pandemic years. People who are trying to cope with these symptoms may become preoccupied with what could happen if it spreads again, so establishing an open dialogue allows them to voice their concerns without fear of judgment or alienation.
It is important for managers to make themselves available to talk to staff members who are struggling after their return. This can either be virtual or in-person, but it needs to be stressed that it is important that managers show their support and ensure that they know that it is okay to talk about the issues plaguing them.
Step 3: Give your employees space to process information
People need time to process information about what happened during their time away. Managers should be patient with their staff members and allow them the time they need to re-acclimate. For example, allowing employees time to process information about what happened during their absence will help them adjust better when they return.
Managers have a crucial role in establishing an open dialogue between co-workers. This helps ease the tension that may build up over the course of an employee’s absence if people find it difficult to talk about what went on during that time or struggle to cope with feelings that arise from it.
While managers are not responsible for making sure everyone is doing okay if someone comes forward asking for some support, there are things managers can do; like giving them space to process their emotions by giving them alone time or allowing them to take a break if they need it, or just checking up on them at opportune times.
“You may be feeling many things: overwhelmed, sad, physically exhausted. If you feel numb, ask yourself what it is that you are avoiding. Making the decision to return to work and reestablishing your routines can help bring back your sense of control.”
“It’s normal for the shock and intensity of emotions to come and go over time—or even lead to depression and anxiety. These feelings don’t necessarily mean it’s not safe for you to return; they’re reminders that you survived an incredibly difficult situation. To get through this tough chapter in your life, seek out, family members or colleagues who can support you. If your emotions are overwhelming or start to affect your work, don’t be afraid to tell us—we’re glad you’re back and we want things to get better for you.”
Step 4: Get ready for feedback
This step includes collecting online survey results, defining action items that arise from the survey data, setting goals for future surveys, and creating a plan to monitor progress towards goals.
Recognize that some employees may be unhappy with the policy, have recommendations or requests or want to give feedback. It is important to note that negative feedback does not necessarily reflect the majority opinion, so when planning to collect feedback from employees, it is important to take each response into consideration.
Step 5: Manage community expectations
Managing expectations requires being transparent about what is being done with evidence collected via post-covid systems. This entails clearly communicating what will be done with said information as well as developing systems that can be used by staff members who are processing claims or other types of reports.
Step 6: Implement boundaries
Once the workplace is prepared, it’s time to move forward and create new boundaries that everyone needs to agree on. These include boundaries about space, meetings, socializing, and other covid-related measures.
Step 7: Introduce open work hours
The most important part of implementing boundaries is introducing open work hours where employees can use their own discretion when they come in and leave the office, as long as they complete their tasks for the day. This will maximize productivity while ensuring that personal life stays personal.
Step 8: Prepare the workplace
Preparing the workplace for people coming back after having lived through two years of a global pandemic means creating a workspace that makes people feel safe and comfortable. You need to keep in mind that people will be coming back after witnessing going through some difficult situations and you need to create a safe space for them, both physically and emotionally.
Step 9: Recognize the status quo and what changes need to be made to improve it.
When considering making these changes or altering policies in any way, consider first whether or not the new policy will change the status quo for the better. Evaluate first whether or not new policies will encourage better work-life balance rather than actually make things worse (like some might fear). Recognizing the status quo is important because it allows you to understand where your business stands today, which gives you a point of reference when considering new ways forward.
Step 10: Communicate changes to employees
After implementing changes, it is very important for managers to communicate the new policies so that the entire team is on the same page. This will promote understanding and ensure that everyone’s needs are met in a way that best suits their working habits.
Step 11: Evaluate the success of policies
Evaluating whether or not these changes were successful can be done by checking if employees feel more relaxed than usual. If they seem stressed out or unhappy with the new policy, then you’ll know you did something wrong and need to change it up a bit. However, if they’re a lot happier with how things are going this time around, then congratulations! You’ve made a lasting impact on your workplace the betterment of all involved.
Managing expectations and creating boundaries is important so your business can be properly run and employees feel cared for during the transition back to office work. Keep the above tips and steps in mind and make the post-covid return a successful one.