After a great summer break, few of us are ready to return to work. However this year's return introduces a new dimension. For many people, they’ll be returning to work following almost 18 months away from the office.
For many people, one of the biggest anxieties about returning to work is fear of the unknown. No matter how successful your communication has been with your teams, there are unknowns for all of us returning to the office.
There’s an opportunity to take time to understand how your teams are feeling and proactively prepare your people for the imminent return. Here are three ideas.
1. Welcoming People Back
A ‘Welcome Back’ lunch or coffee morning to celebrate your teams coming back together. This doesn’t need to be grand or expensive. The objective is to ease people back in. People will naturally share how they’ve felt about being away from the office and returning to the work environment.
When creating supportive cultures within your organisation, it starts with your leaders. It’s one of our key focuses at The Conscious Workplace (you can read more about that here).
Encourage your leaders to share their experiences and anxieties with your teams. This will help demonstrate the supportive culture you’re creating. However, this isn’t the forum for leadership to pry and dig into the concerns of team members. This is primarily an opportunity for your people to reconnect.
2. Providing Flexibility
Leaders should have conversations with their teams around new ways of working such as flexible working arrangements or even a permanent approach to working from home - especially if people are living with or looking after someone who is considered vulnerable. Companies such as John Lewis, NatWest and Asda are now allowing staff to work partly from home.
Leaders should engage with their people individually to understand concerns. They should ask for feedback on how best to offer support. Leaders talking openly about how they are feeling - with regular check-ins - is key to ensuring people are not feeling pressured or overwhelmed.
3. Staying In The Loop
Everyone returning to the office will experience an element of the unknown. Whether it’s changing government guidance, adapting internal processes, or new team dynamics.... one thing is for certain: the expectations of all businesses will continue to change for the foreseeable future. Checking in once, on the day everyone returns, will not be enough.
So you must stay in the loop with your people. This is a two-way conversation. This can be as simple as asking how people are feeling on a regular basis, (from a place of authenticity), or providing teams with a short employee engagement survey to find out how they are adjusting.
We hope the above is useful. The key is giving your people time to reset and re-balance during the working day.
Supporting their mental health is crucial to maintaining their emotional balance and overall wellbeing. The output is happier and more effective teams.
If you are interested in learning more about our Return To Work Kickstarter Programme, or want to discuss our proactive approach to mental health and wellbeing, please get in contact via my details below.