With restrictions beginning to lift here in WA, there are more and more workplaces preparing for employees to return to work after stand downs, periods of leave or working remotely from home offices. We’ve compiled some important considerations and practical steps to ensure your team’s return to work is as smooth and effective as possible.

Consider practical workplace set up and hygiene requirements

With regulations covering physical distancing, some workplaces may need to relocate workstations or reconfigure their office spaces. You may need to mark out distances or provide directions for flow of foot traffic through the workplace to guide workers in these spaces and meet these health and safety requirements. Have you established cleaning schedules and provided sufficient hand sanitiser and other PPE to meet the guidelines for your industry?

Review remote working or rostered times working on site

For both the cost and the practicality of maintaining appropriate physical distancing in the workplace, some businesses may need to continue remote work arrangements for some of their team. Depending on your business needs, you may consider a staggered return or establishing a rotating roster for distinct groups to work on site or at home. This can assist in transitioning staff back to the workplace, while also maintaining some protections. For example, in the event an employee from one group falls ill, the other group should have had no contact and could remain operational.

Assess workforce infrastructure needs

While you plan for employees to return to work, are there contingencies in place if someone does fall sick with Covid-19 and the affected workers need to go back to working remotely or taking leave? Consider if there are appropriate processes, communication platforms, equipment and policies in place to allow the team to quickly respond to this situation. The measures that are in place to manage COVID-19 are likely to be in place in one form or another for another six months or so. While it’s difficult to anticipate how this will affect your business, having the right tools available to allow your team to operate remotely or onsite while observing the restrictions in place, means you’ll be able to adapt to these changes and maintain business operations.

Communicate the plan

With the unsettling nature of the COVID-19 situation, many people are struggling with anxiety as they face so many unknowns. Almost everyone is looking for certainty so once you are clear on your return to work plan, communicating this with specific dates and times, and outlining the workplace expectations with regards to returning to work, including specific hygiene, distancing and PPE requirements, will help to provide some much-needed certainty for your employees.

Welcome back

For employees returning, schedule a welcome back meeting and allow time for a Q&A with employees. You may have changed rosters, workstations and PPE/health and safety requirements in the workplace, so give employees a chance to ask questions and raise any concerns they may have. Make sure expectations around hygiene are understood and clarify the reporting process if employees are feeling unwell or needing to stay home sick.

Rebuilding morale in the workplace

Your team has faced many challenges in recent weeks and months, and each person is likely to have dealt with these in different ways. It’s important to acknowledge that some employees may find returning to work a relief, whereas others will be quite anxious about this change. Further, there may be some employees not returning, changes to roles or how employees carry out their roles, so for many businesses it is not a case of going back to a workplace that is the same as it used to be.

It will take time to rebuild morale in your team and considering the needs of your people, providing clear work directions and providing practical support to your team is a good start. Giving employees an avenue to raise concerns and ensuring that you address these promptly is more important than ever.

Focus on the positives

While none of us would have wished for this pandemic to take hold, with the far-reaching effects across business and society as a whole, there are of course many learnings we can take away from this time.

Many businesses scrambled to get set up for remote working, and have since discovered that their teams are far more productive in their home office than in a busy and distracting office. Other may have realised just how much some of their team thrive on social interaction and some businesses may have realised where some roles simply were not as essential as once thought. Taking forced time out from work or changing to a remote work scenario, may have made space for new approaches or solutions to old problems. Find ways to celebrate and encourage the ways people have adapted and be curious about what your team can bring with their new perspectives and understanding of their own work habits and productivity, collaboration strengths and social interaction needs.

Find out more in our upcoming Webinar

While many business owners and managers are confident that they can work out the practical requirements for employees returning to work, managing the workplace culture and morale while we are still facing so much change and uncertainty is more challenging. Join Christine on Friday 1st of May at 11am, as she discusses “Getting Back to Work and Re-engaging Your Team”. Register here for this free webinar which will include a Q&A for attendees.