It is natural that employees at all levels will have mixed thoughts and feelings about a return to the office after working remotely during the pandemic. Some will be excited to get back to a physical work environment, others may be worried about this prospect, and some may not be able to return due to their personal circumstances.

In any case, communication is key and building open, transparent lines of communication with your people will help facilitate a smooth transition.

As with any change, your people will have questions and it is important to address their queries. Whether you choose to run a live Q&A with your management team or produce a comprehensive FAQ and documented plan about the return to the office, there are five important questions your employees need to the answers to.

1. How will the return to the office be executed? 

Firstly, you must be able to communicate your approach to the return to the office. Whether you plan to wait until the government advises all employees can return safely, or slowly bring back groups of people on a roster week by week – your people need to know the who, what, when, where, how and why behind the plan.

  • Who will be going back?
  • What is the approach to the return to the office? 
  • When will people be going back?
  • How will this process be managed? 
  • Why is this the best approach for the business? 

2. What are the expectations for employees to return to the office? 

As we have discussed previously, your employees’ circumstances will vary. This does not just mean that they will all feel differently about returning to the office.
Consider the impacts that the following may potentially have on an individual’s ability to return to the office: 

  • Living arrangements 
  • Childcare 
  • Health conditions 
  • Care responsibilities  
  • Transport 
  • Support networks 

3. What additional health and safety measures are in place to protect employees returning to the office? 

To reassure those being asked to return, you must communicate any new processes and policies in place that they will need to abide by, as well as those which will directly impact their health and safety in the office. 

  • Accessing the building 
  • Entering the workplace
  • Desk arrangements 
  • Staff schedules
  • Office cleaning 
  • Personal protective equipment and hygiene 
  • Building policies and procedures                                                                                                                                                  

4. Are there plans to make changes to the company’s working from home policy?

After successfully working from home for an extended period, many of your employees will likely want the opportunity to incorporate home working into their longer-term working arrangements. In line with this, those who may have identified that they are unable to return to the office will want to know what the future of working may look like for them moving forward.

With 73% of the workforce that, according to a PageGroup survey, would like to work from home 1 to 2 days per week, it is important not to overlook these possibilities: 

  • Flexible remote working policies 
  • Regularly scheduled work from home days
  • Alternating work from home arrangements 
  • Full-time work from home setups 
  • Agreed fixed-term work from home arrangements 

These policies could also facilitate your plans to slowly bring staff back into the office.

5. Is the structure of the organisation different and are processes likely to change to better support teams working both in the office and remotely?

In many cases, at any period of time, there is likely to be a group of employees in the office and another working from home. Just as your processes and procedures may have evolved to better facilitate pure home working setups it is important to access what will be most effective to support a hybrid team. 

When determining whether your processes could be improved, it is important to work with your employees and assess the following areas:

  • How to interact with remote and office-based staff 
  • Promoting collaboration between remote and office-based staff
  • Integrating work remotely and in the office
  • How to set the tone for culture for a hybrid workforce 
  • Managing workflow

If you would like any more information, or to find out how we can support you at this time, please get in touch.

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