Finally, after more than 20 months of getting locked down inside our homes, we are free to roam the world again. That comes with another responsibility: going back to the office. Sure, many of us want to stay at home and work there but don’t you miss your nosy co-workers? Don’t you miss all those lunchtime chats and after-work drinks? Life needs to get back to normal if we are to survive as a society. And even with the threat of another coronavirus variant, we need to push against it and stand our ground. We need to be back where we belong—out there, working, having fun, and enjoying life.
But now that you can welcome back employees to the office, how ready are you? More importantly, how ready is the office to welcome its inhabitants back? Are you prepared for any possible outbreak? Did you incorporate preventive measures in the new design? Did you even change the layout of the office itself?
The best welcome-back gift to your employees is the gift of safety. Clean the office. Make sure that it has all the safety protocols in place. Call an air-conditioning service and ensure that all units are working properly. More, they have to change the filters and install UV lights in the air-con vents to ensure that clean air circulates inside the office.
How about the touchpoints? Sure, there is a vaccine mandate that hits your employees, too, but that doesn’t mean they should not practice distancing and sanitation anymore. Part of the safety measure any office should follow is investing in touchless devices such as doors opening and closing by themselves, smart faucets, and automated water and soap dispensers, among others. The less sharing of touchpoints, the less possibility of an outbreak in the office.
Since you are back in the office, some might think it’s okay to delete communication tools from their phones and laptops. Stop right there. Messaging apps and project management tools saved organizations in the past almost two years. Why would you suddenly not use them anymore just because you see each other face to face again?
Messaging platforms such as Slack are still effective tools to communicate about projects. You can still share files using the platform. Since these are already the tools you’ve been using for the past months, why not continue them so the transition will be easier?
What’s a nice welcome gift to employees? It doesn’t have to be grand. You can give them a personalized tumbler, noise-canceling headphones, and gift certificate to their favorite local restaurant. It’s a nice way to show your employees that you are excited to have them back in the office. It also shows your appreciation of them for being with the company during the pandemic.
Mental Health Services
The past 20 months haven’t been easy on anyone, including your employees. Some of them may not even be ready to go to the office. Why not offer them free consultation services with mental health practitioners? The idea of face-to-face interaction and communication may be nerve-wracking and stressful for some of your employees. Make sure to reach out to them and make the transition as stress-free as possible.
The well-being of your employees is tied to their physical health. So, instead of just providing a nice pantry or lounge area for them, why not fill it up with healthy snacks? You do not have to do it long-term or even fill it to the brim because that’s expensive, something that your business cannot afford right now. However, you can start introducing them to healthier snack alternatives.
Working in an office today is vastly different from two years ago. Whereas before employees could stay close to each other, things are different now because of the threat of another outbreak. Returning to the office is a great opportunity for everyone, but it doesn’t mean that everyone is comfortable with the idea. Offer to change the layout to provide social distancing. Ask them what they think will work best—an open layout or a closed floor plan.
There are, of course, many ways to make employees feel welcome in the office. Managers and supervisors best know their personnel, so they are the best source of information about making the employees happy. But whether it is by providing them healthy snacks, mental health services, or a new office layout, employees cannot wait to go back to the office and have a normal work routine once again.