How To Manage a Confident and Effective Return to the Office for your Staff

We have all experienced huge (unexpected) change in the past few months. Although we may be on countless Zoom calls, the face to face contact, as well as the number of random interactions we have has drastically reduced.

Other than the reduction in social contact, the pandemic will have affected your teams in many varied ways. Whilst some may have been furloughed or worked a reduced schedules, others (even within the same team) may have been busier than ever before. Some may have been unwell themselves or may still be recovering from loss of a family member. Whilst some will be itching to get back to the office, others may have found a new way of combining home and work that has caused them to rethink how they want to operate going forwards. For each employee who has found lockdown to be a positive time of reflection and changed pace, there will be another who has struggled to juggle the new conflicting demands on their time. Additionally, perceived (and actual) levels of risk from the virus will vary hugely from person to person affecting their confidence in returning to work.

With these conflicting experiences, comes a challenge when you are ready to get your teams back to work: ensuring that each staff member – no matter their experience and attitude – feels comfortable and confident in their return. These are some of the factors we recommend taking into account when formulating your return plan:

  1. Listen: The first step to understanding how to balance the different needs and attitudes of staff alongside those of the organisation is to open a dialogue. In smaller teams, check in conversations will be useful. In larger organisations, stakeholder analysis or empathy mapping tools will be invaluable steps in gathering the right information to inform your next steps.  
  2. Reset: The pandemic has been a time to reset, not just for individuals, but for many organisations too. This break, along with the information you gather from your teams, may be the right time to think about becoming more creative about ways of working, whether through wellbeing initiatives, team tools, flexibility, agile working going forward and even strategic direction.
  3. Communicate: How any decisions about return plans are communicated will be crucial in gaining employee buy-in. When staff feel valued, through open, direct communication, they are much more likely to accept change than when decisions are kept quiet or only shared with the few. We work closely with leaders to help you communicate more effectively, so staff feel in the loop and understood.
  4. Rebuild: The lack of contact and changed work schedules will have affected team dynamics. Likewise, new working arrangements or reduced team sizes will have an impact on how teams gel together. Spending some time rebuilding trust and communication within the team will be key to ensuring performance is as effective and efficient as possible, as well as having an impact on staff engagement. Whilst large-scale teambuilding exercises may not be possible for a while, small team activities and online teambuilding are both great ways to help your teams feel connected again.

If you would like support with formulating return plans, helping your teams cope with change and rebuilding team dynamics, get in touch with us through our About page.

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