How to help employees transition back to work after lockdown

COVID-19 has affected us all in different ways and we are treading new ground each day when it comes to both our professional and personal lives.

However, there is light at the end of the lockdown tunnel and we will get through these strange times.

Whether you have implemented new working from home policies or you can operate in your building after making a few changes to conform with government guidelines, we can all agree we are quickly adapting to accommodate social distancing and to keep staff safe.

While we are counting down the days until we can return to normal, we have to remember that the transition for employees back to work could be as difficult as the shift to working from home.

Weeks spent at home have become our new normality and despite the nation longing for the lockdown to be over, it doesn’t always mean that returning to work will be easy. Here are a few crucial things to consider before getting your workforce back in the buildings.

Keeping everyone informed

This is something you should be implementing as quickly as possible, even before an end to lockdown is announced.

Your staff may still be working from home and in this case, you may have already been able to keep everybody in the loop about projects, tasks and the general running of the business.

However, you may have some staff furloughed or unable to work for another reason and taking such a length of time away from work can be met with problems on their return.

Using an online human resources system means you can update everything as you go and so can your colleagues.

After all, even if you write everything down to update every staff member on their return, it is unlikely all this information will be retained during that long return-to-work meeting that none of us is looking forward to.

Using a cloud-based system means the whole team has a point of reference for all ongoing projects and can easily access this information as and when they need to.

Is it safe?

While we don’t know exactly what the process will be yet, the government may advise we can return to work, but that doesn’t mean it is safe for all your staff members.

If they or any of their household have displayed symptoms of Coronavirus, they should self-isolate in line with the NHS guidelines. Even if this staff member is feeling well, they can still be a carrier.

To protect your employees, consider questionnaires for each member of your staff before they return to work to attain if they could pose a risk. Some may not know they should not return to work so you must be able to help make that decision with them.

Prepare the office

You may have left your office in a clean condition, but weeks of it being vacant can lead to a rather dirty environment.

Although you could spring clean the place yourself, it is crucial that you properly have your office deep cleaned. Especially if you are looking to prevent that ‘second wave’ of the virus.

It’s worth calling around now and getting quotes and availability from cleaning companies for a one-off clean. Commercial cleaning services in London are already surging in demand and you don’t want to delay work commencing due to an unclean working environment.

It isn’t possible for everyone

Just because some can return to work, this won’t be practical for others. Those with children or vulnerable family members may struggle to find a solution when it is announced we can return.

Schools may be open but will nurseries? If staff have been furloughed, will they be able to afford this childcare even if it is open?

You should begin building a plan now for any eventuality that a member of your team is unable to return to work when everyone else does. Once you have something in motion that works, let staff know sooner rather than later this is in place.

Some people may already be worrying about what happens when they are called back to the office, so knowing you are willing to be flexible will ease a lot of strain at this already stressful time.

Overall, it is important to remember that staff will have had different priorities during the pandemic and may continue to do so afterwards. Making that transition back to work should be made as easy as possible for them.

Don’t expect others to be able to get back into the working mindset straight away, just like the shift to living in lockdown was a tricky time, it will be the same returning to normality.