As offices across the UK begin to re-open, businesses have been busy trying to align their physical workspaces to the government’s Covid-19 guidance in preparation for the return of their workforce. 

But while attention is focused on preparing the perfect post-lockdown working environment, it can be easy to forget to put the employee in the middle and consider what they need to feel ready for the return to the workplace.

Over the past few weeks, we've been talking to friends, families and colleagues to get some insights into what going back to the workplace means for people. And we were interested to see that there were some similarities in the sentiments that were coming up.

Here we’ve shared some insights from our conversations, and ideas on how you could respond, to help make the return to the workplace an uplifting and positive experience for your people.

1. Make wellbeing a priority – We’ve all witnessed the increase in anxiety, insecurity and stress as a result of the pandemic. Even as lockdown slowly lifts, anxieties will stick around. Consider putting in place some wellbeing initiatives for when your people return to work – whether this is regular check-ins, weekly yoga sessions, or a more extensive wellbeing campaign.

2. Safety first – Many questions are being asked about what steps will be taken to keep employees safe at work. Make sure you reassure your people of the measures you are taking through clear and concise communications before re-opening the office doors. And once they’re back, don’t assume these concerns will disappear. Continue to remind them that they are in safe hands, through environmental signage and ongoing communication. 

3. Flexi as the new norm – while it’s likely that remote working will continue to be encouraged by the government, there is also an expectation from the workforce for flexible working to remain long-term. We’ve proven flexi-work works, so consider how this can be implemented into your business. Don't let your people feel that they are 'out of sight, out of mind' – review how you recognise and reward your team remotely to ensure they remain engaged and supported.

4. Focus on team building – for most of us, it's been months since we last saw our colleagues. And for those on furlough, it can feel like they’re no longer part of the team. Don’t just assume that distance makes the heart grow fonder – you may need to consider some (socially distant) team building activities to help build that team spirit back up.

5. Prioritise your workforce planning – There are, of course, concerns about job security, and the impacts of the pandemic on career progression. Workforce needs, career ladders, and roles and responsibilities may need to be reviewed and this should be communicated as soon as you can. Make sure your people know what they’re working towards and are clear on how to get there. 

6. Think about your audience – Many who have been working throughout lockdown are feeling over-stretched, and those who have been on furlough are feeling de-motivated or purposeless. Think about how you communicate to these groups in different ways – tailor your messaging and tone of voice accordingly. Allow both groups to share their feelings, concerns and experiences honestly and without judgement.

7. Communication is vital – Clear and timely communication has never been more critical. Your people need to feel reassured that there is a plan in place and will be looking to leadership for guidance and direction. Be honest and transparent, even about the challenges you are facing. People will trust, respect, and thank you for it.

While nobody knows exactly what the future of work will look like post-Covid, we can be certain that the workforce will be fundamental to making it a success. Let’s make them a priority and use this time to plan a positive return to work experience that welcomes, reassures and motivates your workforce.

We can help you create a workplace that your people will want to return to, and stay at, by placing the employee at the heart of your return to work planning. Give us a call, we would love to hear from you!

Are your people prepared to return to the workplace?