As Coronavirus restrictions begin to ease, many businesses are now turning their efforts towards supporting staff to return to work after COVID-19.

In these unprecedented times, it’s been vital for organisations to employ a high degree of agility and flexibility in order to adjust to the changing regulations around workplace practices and employee safety.

Just as employees have started to adjust to the ‘new normal’ of working from home, social distancing restrictions have begun to ease. While some staff will be keen to return to the office, others will feel concern and uncertainty.

For business leaders and HR departments at this critical time, clear communication is vital to ensure employees are kept informed and have the opportunity to voice their concerns. Here are some key things organisations should start to think about as employees start to return to work after COVID-19.

Have a COVID Safe plan

Businesses are required to ensure the health and safety of their workers. At this current time, there is a requirement for businesses to eliminate or minimise as much as possible the risk of exposure to Coronavirus.

Whilst immediate action is important to ensure your organisation measures up, it’s important to have a clear and well-considered plan in place that clearly documents all the actions you have taken in this process (including good hygiene practices, physical distancing and what to do in the event of an infection).

There is a wealth of resources online regarding how to develop and implement a COVID Safe plan. You can find useful information and templates for a COVID Safe plan here.

To ensure transparency, the plan should be accessible to all employees to review at any time as they return to the office after COVID-19. You may want to consider setting up a COVID-19 resource page on your intranet or possibly a staff eDM newsletter to include the plan, together with a Q&A section that staff can access.

Set a clear timeline and expectations for a return to work

Whilst it may be difficult to set out concrete timelines for the changing and lifting of regulations, it’s important for businesses to keep up to date with the latest government advice around key forthcoming dates so they can communicate the key timings to staff in good time, allowing for employees to ask questions and express concerns.

Planning regular updates to make staff aware of the latest developments and what this means for your particular business are important to alleviate anxiety and reassure staff that you are on top of the situation.

Give staff the opportunity to express fears and address them

Your staff will be facing a variety of challenges in their personal and professional lives that may be causing them a good deal of anxiety as they return to work after COVID-19. This may include having underlying health conditions or carer responsibilities. Mental health issues may also be heightened for some at this challenging time.

It’s important that they are given a means to express their concerns and fears sensitively and that these concerns are heard and addressed.

Ensuring staff know who to speak to about their worries at this time is a good first step. You may consider holding a staff forum (in small groups to keep appropriate distance). Team leaders may also want to schedule one-on-one check-in meetings with team members to discuss any issues they are struggling with. With any of these forums and meetings, it’s important that any points raised are recorded and that clear actions and timings are communicated.

There are a number of online resources available to businesses to ensure they are sufficiently prepared to listen to staff and address their concerns. Here, you can access training resources to help manage your team’s mental health.

Consider flexible working arrangements for staff

At Moir Group, we are advocates of flexible working arrangement as we believe that flexibility at work can lead directly to higher job satisfaction for employees and, in turn, better levels of productivity. Encouragingly, we have been seeing organisations increasingly moving towards flexible working arrangements, such as part-time positions, flexible hours and job-share roles.

With businesses now forced to pivot to working from home arrangements, and the natural flexibility this brings, employees are now being given a taste of what more flexible arrangements could offer them in the long term.

Businesses would be wise to take feedback from their employees about their experience of working from home, positives and negatives, and consider if any aspects of this latest experience could be continued following the return to work after COVID-19.

Find ways to convey optimism and boost morale

Finally, with all the stress and uncertainty COVID-19 has brought, you may find it beneficial to consider ways to bring a sense of lightness and unity into your organisation as staff return to work after COVID-19.

Showcasing personal experiences of staff, including senior management (via a video or internal newsletter), is a great way to show that you are all in the situation together and help staff to feel a personal connection with others in the organisation.

Regularly sharing good news, daily tips or fun quizzes and competitions are also good ways to unify and relieve tension. Social events need to maintain hygiene and distancing practices but are a good way to reward staff and relieve tension of the last few months.

Don’t forget ‘at-risk’ staff who may still be working from home and feeling disconnected from the office. Consider how to make them feel a part of the team, both from a work and social perspective.

For more great resources and career tips/advice to help you during this time, head to our COVID-19 Jobseeker Resource Centre.

If you’re looking for a new job, check out our jobs here or call us on (02) 9262 4836 to discuss.

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Moir Group acknowledges Traditional Owners of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures; and to Elders past and present and encourage applications from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and people of all cultures, abilities, sex, and genders.