After 111+ days of strict stay-at-home orders, Melbourne has finally lifted lockdown restrictions, and that means some of us may be heading back soon to the office. However, one question is gnawing at everyone’s minds: Is it safe?
More than ever, it’s important that employers think about the well-being of their staff. If you’re a business owner or HR manager, here are five things to consider in your return to the office.
1. Prioritize well-being at the workplace
While it is important to keep up with work, everyone’s health should always come first. To guide businesses in creating their own COVIDSafe Plans, Australia’s states and territories will be issuing public health directions to prevent any new outbreaks. Nevertheless, given that there is no definitive cure yet for the COVID-19 virus, many of us can’t help feeling an ounce of fear and reluctance right now.
On your own, you can put in place internal policies around social distancing and proper disinfecting, and also ensure proper ventilation, to reduce the risk of an outbreak. Stack these all together and you’ve got a near risk-free work environment.
2. Allow them to work from home
Of course, not everyone is going to be thrilled by the idea of returning right away to the office, and that’s only natural. We worked at home for months, and some might be feeling anxious about going back. To expect everyone to “just deal with it” is easier said than done.
If the nature of their work allows it, anyway, why not let your employees continue to work from home? Much as we would all want to completely return to normal and work alongside our team again, safety must always come first. Offer them the option to work off-site once or twice a week, if that works better for you. Flexibility is the key.
And while they’re still on WFH mode, do frequent check-ins with your employees, to see how they’re feeling and if there is anything you can do to make their transition back to work easier. Ask the question, “How can I make you feel happier and safer?” Hear your people out and encourage open communication.
3. Liven up the workplace with outside-of-work activities
Leisure or nonwork-related activities can help boost morale and keep your employees engaged, especially after months of working at home in isolation. These don’t have to be big or fancy events; they can come in the form of small, short-term activities like in-office meditation, mindfulness hour, or yoga sessions, which by the way, are great activities to relieve stress and anxiety.
Another great idea is to have virtual training or learning sessions, where your employees can learn new things or just take a break from the new daily grind:
- Got foodies on the team? Try a dumpling class, a samgyeopsal party, or perhaps, a baking lesson. Full stomach, fuller heart, as they say.
- How about a spa session or a makeup tutorial? After months of zero trips to the salon, who can say no?
- For the artsy types, a workshop in painting, paper sculpting, or collage making might do the trick.
Outside-of-work activities like these will make your employees feel more valued and help take the edge out of the whole “2020 situation”.
4. Go easy on the deadlines
Make your team happier, healthier, and more effective, by finding ways to manage stress at the workplace. Some members of your team may have added commitments to think about, like if they need to home-school their child or simply can’t afford to hire help to watch the kids. Naturally, they would want to prioritise family over work at this time.
Deadlines are, of course, critical to maintaining productivity. But with everything that’s going on right now, working with tight deadlines may add even more stress than necessary and create anxiety or, in severe cases, even depression. All these are clinically proven to diminish productivity.
Let your employees set their own priorities, as they gradually adjust to their new work-life situation. Perhaps, you can institute flexible hours so that they can work at their own pace, without worrying about the situation at home.
5. Repay them – literally
Actions may speak louder than words, but money definitely talks. If you can ease the financial burden resulting from the COVID-19 crisis and extend some cash assistance, it will be a fantastic incentive for your staff.
Coles, for example, gave their employees a one-time cash bonus, to thank them for staying on and keeping their supermarket shelves full during the lockdown. The Woolworths Group, on the other hand, offered free company shares to 100,000 of their staff, for all their hard work since the bushfires earlier in 2020.
Of course, not all employers can afford these kinds of grand gestures, but even little tokens will mean a lot. For example, extending wellness days or vacation or sick time off can go a long way. Work with what you have to show them that you care.
Follow these tips to create a caring environment at your workplace and make the post-lockdown recovery a little less stressful. Pandemic or not, there’s always a way to bond as a team.
Pick an experience to share with your work family today.
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