According to a recent survey, 65% of employees are anxious about returning to the office as lockdown measures across England are set to gradually ease.
And who can blame them? In the past year, a lot has changed. From our responsibilities and routines to our roles and the ever-changing nationwide restrictions imposed on the way that we live, work and play.
It’s because of this that returning to work isn’t as simple as just reopening the office and asking employees to be at their desks by 9am.
The solution? We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again, but when it comes to change in the workplace, communication really is key.
Communication is king
Research conducted last year by consultancy firm KRC highlighted just how important the role of communication will be in the successful return to work.
In its consumer poll, KRC revealed that ‘communication and information sharing’ was linked to employee pride, feeling safe, having trust in leadership and directly correlated with those looking forward to returning to their place of work.
The stats speak for themselves. Of those that received information from their employer; 90% of employees said they were proud to work for their company, compared to 35% who had not received information; while 84% of workers said they were looking forward to going back to work, compared to 41% who did not receive information or updates.
Milestones to reach before the return to work
Before bringing your team back into the office and in addition to meeting government guidelines and the latest restrictions, CIPD – the professional body for HR and people development – has highlighted three key tests for businesses to meet:
- Is it essential? Employers should engage with their staff to understand if returning to the workplace is essential for productivity or wellbeing.
- Is it sufficiently safe? It goes without saying that employers have a duty of care to identify and manage risks to ensure that the workplace is sufficiently safe to return to.
- Is it mutually agreed? There needs to be a clear dialogue between employers and employees so concerns can be raised and individual needs and worries taken into account. There needs to be some flex on both sides.
The points to communicate and consider
If you answered yes to all the above, we’ve compiled some handy pointers on what messages to communicate to your team to ensure you can manage and help dilute any worries employees might have:
Before making any changes, can you conduct a survey to find out what your colleagues think? Is there a platform you could give your employees to voice their thoughts and concerns and provide upwards feedback?
What changes have been made over the past year? And why have these been implemented? Have you used feedback, government information or well trusted/ scientific resources to make these informed decisions?
Have you put in place a new strategy or plan going forward? If so, what is itdoes that look like? Is there a clear process or planned phased return? Perhaps you could create a visual flowchart with links to further resources that could support employees.
Is the message clear that the company is putting employees and their safety and wellbeing first, above commercial interests? What safety precautions have or will you be putting in place to ensure your staff’s wellbeing is at the forefront.
Legal requirements and good practice
Following on from the point above, can staff maintain a safe distance away from one another? Plus, can they get to work safely? Why not recount the tests you have ‘met’ to ensure everything you are doing falls under best practice?
Living your values and purpose
Does your company hold any values, like ‘fairness’ for example? If so, how is this reflected in your return-to-work strategy?
These are just a few things to consider while communicating with your employees. At Work Psychology Group, we know that each organisational issue is unique. Which is why we use our wide range of experience and expertise to develop specific and practical workplace solutions. If you have a workplace problem you would like to discuss, please do get in touch.