With more and more people getting vaccinated for Covid-19, the workplaces will slowly start going back to normal. Or, I should say the new normal. With employees returning to the office, we simply can’t pick up where we left off. For most, it has been over a year since their last day in the office. For others, they have used something called the hybrid office method, switching between home, the office, and wherever else you can do your work. Some might say that this hybrid approach is the future of work. Many people will continue working outside the office whenever possible, some for safety concerns, other because they simply work better that way.
However the future will look like, it’s going to be very individual. Returning to the office can be an emotional, and stressful thing to do. So what can we do to make the transition as smooth as possible? We listed down the key things employees and managers could do to make the process easier, and to benefit from this future of work.
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As an employee, the first thing you should do is to acknowledge the lockdown, the home office life, and all that came with it. The lockdown was no doubt very disruptive for most people’s work, and therefore their work-life balance. Which is why it’s important not to jump straight back into the old working life. Try to pause, reflect, and reconnect. Talk to colleagues, your family, and your boss. Returning to the office after a large-scaled traumatic, or disruptive event can result in having trouble focusing. Which is why readjustment is necessary to get back on track.
So how do you foster engagement when returning to the office? Well, it’s important to be mentally prepared, and not just physically ready. It can be helpful to spend some time reviewing the progress you’ve made during lockdown, and set new priorities for upcoming goals. Write them down, along with short and long-term to-do lists for yourself before returning to work. This simple mental preparation will help you stay engaged when returning to the office, and it will help you focus on what’s important.
Finally, it’s important that you share your concerns, suggestions, and ideas for coming back to work. If you think your company would have handled the situation in a better way, or if you have ideas for how to improve the office life now that people are coming back. Maybe you thought of an idea which will enable better team collaboration while still exercising social distancing. Not only will it help you in your transition to talk to others, who might share your concerns and opinions, but it will also help your company to improve.
As employees start returning to the office, managers should encourage and offer employees opportunities to grow. Now is the time to invest in workforce development, to build a resilient workforce which is able to adapt to constant change. If your employees were able to accomplish their tasks while in home office, you’ve got yourself a great workforce. So make sure you invest in it. Collaborate with the HR department to develop your employees so that the organization can not only recover, but thrive over the next decade. By creating a clear connection between individual jobs, team objectives, and the company mission and vision, you strengthen the link between belonging and organizational performance. Your employees are your biggest asset, and by investing in them you are automatically investing in the success of your organization.
Most employees will feel at risk when returning to the office, and it is the managers duty to ensure that their health and safety is a priority for the organization. Since stress can decrease engagement and productivity at work, managers should ensure that everyone understands and follows protocols and procedures which have been put in place. Managers need to communicate guidelines, and correct those who do not follow them. But most importantly, managers should ensure that their teams are able to follow the rules by planning and organizing cleaning, disinfecting stations etc.
Last but definitely not least, managers need to listen to their employees. Concerns regarding their health will only be the tip of the iceberg. It will be a huge change to come back to the office after such a long time, and most people will have concerns, stress, or even anxiety. Which is why it’s not only important to listen when they need to talk, but to actively ask about their wellbeing. You can even send out an anonymous survey to your team asking them how they feel and if there is any concern. This will ensure that everyone feels like they can safely express themselves, and it gives you the chance of addressing the concerns. Create a deeper connection by linking their work to how it impacts the organization, making sure that they know how valued they are.
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