Many workers are now starting to go back to work in the office with a mixture of excitement and apprehension. Some have a combined fear of the virus as well as the impact of having had such an isolated past 12 months.
With businesses forced to swiftly alter their operations to allow employees to work remotely, we are now somewhat unfamiliar with our old way of working and living. New rules and regulations to ensure safety, such as density limits and being unfamiliar with a new working environment, may feel strange.
Each person will respond differently to a return to the office, however, there are some things you can do to help your employees feel more comfortable.
People are able to form habits relatively quickly and we have developed many habits that will make our ‘old’ life feel uncomfortable. To some extent, we are out of practice.
Although the office environment only has some minor changes when compared to working conditions pre-COVID, it will take some time before employees become adjusted back into this environment and feel comfortable once again.
Employers should give their employees time to ease back into their ‘normal’ working conditions. Compassion is key to enable people to travel through quickly and criticism will only make it harder.
Recognise the differences between experiences
Some employees will have loved isolation where as other would have found it incredibly challenging. Some will be eager to talk and re-integrate with their co-workers and shared spaces where as others will be more hesitant as they had gotten comfortable with the ability to live their life from home.
Everyone is different and will have differing attitudes and feelings towards returning to work in the office.
Employers should recognise this and support all employees to ensure they are as comfortable as possible.
Everyone has fears. Some people are frightened of physical danger, others are worried about whether people like us or not and some are worried about others seeing their emotions or vulnerabilities.
The more we try to hide our fears, the more they come out in ways that we don’t want.
Normalising our shared experience of fear and discussing them in a non-judgmental way will help employees overcome their fears.
Try to locate the specific fear
Employers should help their employees identify their fears by asking gentle, open questions as opposed to closed questions requiring only a yes or no answer.
You should create a list of things that employees are worried about and then make some guidelines to help overcome these fears. If it is about shared equipment in the office, you should create some guidelines. If it is about the commute to the office, provide employees with different arrival and departure times to allow flexibility.
By identifying the specific fears, you can put policies and procedures in place to combat these fears and provide comfort for your employees.
Fear is the main block to us reaching our potential. Understanding how to manage our fear is how we will remain flexible to all the challenges we are yet to meet.