Planning the Return to the Workplace
Posted on 14th September 2021 at 11:18
Guest Blog by Clare Dalziel from HR Dept, Northampton South.
As the world continues to change, many more businesses are starting to plan for the return to the workplace. This should be easy right?
Not everybody is pleased to hear this news as some will still be feeling anxious and have many questions and objections.
Therefore, it is best to plan and prepare for every eventuality. If a staff member raises concerns it is important that you take the time to listen and seek understanding but also know what steps you can take to support them.
There will be many reasons why some employees feel less comfortable about returning to the workplace and each one should be assessed in its own way.
Planning, preparation and communication will be key.
You need to remember that not everyone has received their vaccinations and the virus still poses a risk.
You have a responsibility for employees Health and Safety it is therefore important that you let them know what measures you have put in place to do you best to protect them and minimise the risks. It is a good idea to provide them with a copy of the risk assessment to show them that your workplace is COVID secure.
Some employees may have found working at home more productive and as they have made it work for the last 18 months why would they want to commute during rush hours and therefore may wish to continue to work from home.
The decision is up to you as long as the workplace is COVID secure, however you also need you team to be onboard to get back to business with little disruption.
Managing objections to return to work
As I said at the beginning, planning, preparing and communicating will be key to the success. If you can speak to employees on a one-to-one basis this will ensure that you completely understand their concerns and can work to reassure them.
As employees return ensure that line managers complete a return-to-work style interview, this will help to show you care about them and their welfare and help you to address any outstanding concerns they may have.
You may not be able to appease everyone so explain the reasons for your decisions and what the benefits are such as enhanced collaboration and team building.
If employees have been working at home for some time the return to the workplace may feel daunting. Could you offer a phased return so they can see it is not as bad as they thought but allows them time to readjust.
You may also see an increase in the number of flexible working requests you receive during the return phase, so it is important to think about what would work for your business – would flexitime work perhaps allowing employees to avoid the rush hour commute.
Remember flexible working is not currently a legal requirement, but employees with at least 26 weeks service do have the right to request it. There is a process including a time frame for replying to a request that must be followed.
Even after considering all of the above, you may still receive some push back and there may be a requirement to pursue disciplinary action. If a situation feels like it is leaning this way, we are here to help.
You may prefer to have staff return to the workplace, it is worth noting that hybrid and remote working are fast becoming a desirable employee benefit post pandemic. Companies that allow flexible working are likely to see better employee retention rates and have an advantage when recruiting.
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