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Easing employees back into the workplace – what you need to know as an employer

This column is by-lined by Nicki Robson, managing director at Breedon Consulting.

As restrictions begin to lift across the UK, employers should be thinking about the future of work and how best to help their employees as they return to the workplace after a long period of furlough or remote working.

According to the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD), employers must plan for any return to the workplace in a way that cares for their staff members and safeguards their health and wellbeing.*

The HR experts at Breedon Consulting have highlighted five tips that businesses can use to ensure the successful integration of staff members, while taking into account the physical and mental wellbeing of workers and the options to support flexible and remote working where possible.

Managing director of Breedon Consulting, Nicki Robson, said: “Now restrictions are starting to lift, and the UK begins to transition into a way of life that feels more familiar than what we have experienced over the last 12 months, we must remember that everything will not just return to how it was pre-pandemic. Everything has changed and people have changed too.

“Some employees will have had a terrible experience, whilst others will have enjoyed the slower pace of life and increased family time. As an employer, it is important not to lose sight of these changes and take appropriate action to engage the team, as you are relying on them to get everything back up and running.

“There’s a lot for employers to look out for, and all at a time when they are understandably focusing on getting the operational side of their businesses back up and running. It’s vital to get the workforce engaged and connected to the success of the business, so as they return, it is an ideal time to get professional support.

“At Breedon Consulting, we provide a number of services to help employers at this time – from conducting an employee engagement survey to helping employers draw up bespoke re-onboarding programmes with access to training and employee engagement services, we can help employees be the best that they can be, whilst allowing management to focus on the more technical aspects of getting their businesses back up and running.

“Employers may find that employees want to retain some of the benefits of homeworking and so we are starting to see the birth of more flexible, hybrid working routines moving forwards. This is not uncommon, and as working arrangements have changed and we’re unlikely to return to the same pre-covid ways of working, it is important to get the balance right as this will be key to a successful return for all.”

Here are the five tips that businesses can use to ease employees back into the workplace:

  1. Ensure staff are happy and comfortable when returning to work

There are many steps employers can take to ensure employees are happy and comfortable when returning to work. Employers need to understand that leaving homes after a long period of time to return to the workplace, can stir up fear and anxiety in staff members. Conducting an employee engagement survey can provide insight into how employees are feeling. Return to work meetings and regular check-ins can help ease the pressure and allow employees to raise any concerns they may be having about returning to work.

  1. Understand that management styles will differ

Management styles will vary significantly when overseeing teams onsite and remotely, and managers may find it much easier to supervise staff in an office environment with regular contact, as opposed to remote working. Many employees have seen a general lack of performance management whilst working from home, and so employers may benefit from giving management a refresher on good management practices, as well as performance management procedures.

  1. Practice COVID-19 safety in the workplace

Business owners should be following all of the government guidelines regarding COVID-19 safety in the office, ensuring risk assessments are regularly reviewed in light of any new changes or announcements. Employers may see an increase in pandemic related office disputes and must have appropriate procedures in place to avoid escalation. Open communication is key to resolving any issues successfully.

  1. Bolstering staff confidence following a long period of furlough

Furloughed employees may have forgotten how to do certain aspects of their roles or may have missed out on changes that were implemented during their absence. It would be worthwhile for teams to undergo a comprehensive process of re-onboarding to help strengthen confidence, and refresh skills. Careful thought should be given to how best to do this, taking into account the circumstances of individual team members.

  1. Mental health in the workplace

Mental health has been a real focus during the pandemic, with many experiencing issues such as heightened anxiety and depression since the start last March. Employers must take into account that absence and sickness rates may increase, with the added pressures of the daily commute and less time with family, and staff may take more time off for physical illness, as well as stress and mental health issues.

Employers should be on the lookout for symptoms of pandemic burnout, particularly among those who have continued working during the pandemic. Both staff and management should partake in initiatives targeted towards helping mental health in the workplace – from employee assistance programmes and structured wellbeing programmes, to adopting a hybrid working model and more flexible ways of working.

Breedon Consulting is offering free 15-minute consultations to talk about challenges that business owners may be facing at the current time.

About Breedon Consulting

Founded by managing director Nicki Robson in 1999, Breedon Consulting is a HR firm based in Ashby-de-la-Zouch in Leicestershire, that focuses on offering a personable, transparent service providing general HR management and learning and development services.

http://www.breedonconsulting.co.uk/

Sources: *https://www.cipd.co.uk/knowledge/fundamentals/emp-law/employees/workplace-guide-returning-after-coronavirus#gref

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