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Getting Staff Ready to Return After Lockdown

Most of us have spent more time at home in the last year than at any other time in our working lives.  For some, this has been career heaven and others, career hell.  As the owner of a small or medium-sized business you’re likely now focused on the post lockdown return to work.

There’s plenty of support online outlining things you need to think about ahead of welcoming part, or all of your workforce back into the workplace, but much of it focuses on legal requirements and compliance.  That’s why we thought we’d publish a couple of topical articles on the softer side of the return to work.  We’ve already published a Management Team post to help you get prepared, which you can find here.  This article is focused on making sure your team are coming back to work (or indeed staying at home) feeling confident and in control.

Here are our 4 Top Tips for making sure your workforce is fully on board with your post lockdown return to work plans:

Inform

As managers and business leaders we know only too well that if we don’t keep our teams informed, there is a greater chance of anxiety, insecurity and fear.  The fact is that a whole lot of people are living in fear of the unknown right now.  How will life be after lockdown?  Will the workplace be safe?  Is my job safe?  What’s likely to happen to the economy and what impact will that have on me, my job and my family?  Should I have a vaccination when my time comes?  All of these questions, plus a whole lot more, pop into most of our heads at some point or another.

You’re likely to have some staff members who have loved working from home and may even request to continue doing so some of the time after things get back to ‘normal’.  There are likely to be others who can’t wait to re-join their colleagues to share experiences and regain the feeling of community and purpose that we all enjoy in the workplace.  The chances are you’re likely to face each of these extremes, plus everything in between over the next few months.

The bottom line is that your people need to know what your plans are.  They need to be aware of what choices they have and what will be expected of them in terms of working conditions and working hours.  It may well be, for example, that you ask your workforce to arrive at different, staggered times to enable distancing.  If so, for some that’ll be a blessing and for others it might cause them concerns about school-run timings or public transport options. 

Information is power and the better informed you keep your workforce, the more in control they’re likely to feel, and the more confident they will be when they come back to work.

Listen

It’s more than likely, no matter how thorough you are in your back to work planning process that there’ll be things you miss or haven’t thought about.  Or you may just have a particularly anxious member of staff who has lots of questions.  Either way, it’s really important to lean in and listen to what’s on their minds so you can take their concerns into account and put their minds at ease.

It may well be that people have logistical questions such as – “I normally cycle to work, so I’m wondering if the showers will be open when we come back” or “My childcare arrangements don’t work for the new working hours you’ve asked me to do.  Can I change with someone?”  These, and many other questions are likely to pop up over the next few weeks and indeed months – ideally, it’s best if you can be prepared for them.

We are going into uncharted territory and people will have questions.  The more freely you provide speedy answers, the more you’ll be able to reassure your staff and give them the confidence to return to work or stay at home for a while longer.  Depending on the size of your team, you could consider setting up a WhatsApp group or a regular Zoom call to take questions and either provide answers on the spot or let people know that their question is being dealt with.  Working in this way makes everyone feel involved in the back to work process and reduces any fear about how work will be after lockdown.

Reassure

When it comes to reassuring your workforce, it’s best to lead from the front.  Providing information, listening and being in control will reassure them that you’re doing everything you’re required to do and indeed everything in your power to keep them safe when they return to work.  You could perhaps even consider appointing some back to work champions to help ease the burden on the management team.  But if you do that, it’s essential to make sure you’re all on the same page/singing from the same hymn sheet about what’s going to happen, otherwise that extra layer could add to confusion.

Support

Not everyone will be vocal about their fears and concerns.  And sometimes it’s the people who are less vocal in the workplace who are suffering the most.  It’s for this reason that it may be worth considering offering either anonymous online or telephone support, or a ‘drop in’ facility where staff members can ask questions in a confidential setting.  By enabling this sort of communication and reassurance, you are more likely to keep any major issues at bay.

No one is saying that getting people back to work after lockdown is going to be easy for employers.  No one is saying that going back to work after lockdown will be easy for employees.  But like all things in life, if we plan it well, keep people informed, listen to their issues, reassure them and give them all the support we can, it should be easier.

At Payplus we’re going through this process right now, in the same way that you are.  We’re planning our return while still under pressure to do the day job, so we know what you’re up against.  If we can help ease your post lockdown burden, reach out.  We’re here for you.

 

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