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Helping an Employee Back Into the Office

– Contributed content –

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28 Oct. 2020. One of the biggest challenges any business faces is balancing up the needs of your business with the needs of your employees. The coronavirus pandemic has not passed yet, but when an employee is looking to go back to work or now is the time to bring them back into the office, there is a lot at stake. Some people will consider returning but other employers are wondering if they need to get more things in place to encourage staff back to the office. Other times, there will be issues relating to an employee’s personal circumstances. What does it take to get an employee back to work in difficult times but also after an employee’s individual difficult time?

Focus on care

While we need to balance the needs of the business with our employees, we need to remember how we are treating our employees. They are going through and continue to go through a stressful time. Everybody experiences anxieties in their own way, and while you may not want to handle everything with “kid gloves,” you still need to consider the entire spectrum of employees and their concerns. When an employee has undergone a personal problem and they are easing back into the work environment, you may wish to have to ensure the employee is back into their role. There are ways you can implement this. With Designated Employer Representative courses for employees who need to know the program and the federal and state law, it means that you can comply with regulations appropriately rather than just having someone as an intermittent point of contact. We have to remember that when we bring an employee back into the fold, whatever their unique circumstances have been, or continue to be, that we remain as focused on their development in a holistic sense, as well as a professional one.

Clear communication throughout the process

There are two sides to effective communication. Firstly, communicating with the employee puts them at ease and gives you the opportunity to explain what your plans are at each stage. When an employee is aware of the stages in returning to work, this helps to put across transparency. Secondly, clear communication helps you because you are complying with rules and regulations. We have to remember that when we are bringing someone back into the workplace they will need to be communicated effectively in accordance with the relevant HR procedures. Clear communication gives employees all the information that you have which is crucial as employees sometimes feel they aren’t being communicated the bigger picture. Reassuring them of the steps you are taking to bring them back into the workplace and to minimize risks will work towards transparency.

Assessing the employee’s risk

Every employee is an individual and it may mean that they are in a higher risk category. If an employee has a medical condition that puts them at higher risk you will need to make reasonable adjustments to guarantee their return to work is safe. From a health and safety perspective, the process can be pretty straightforward, especially when you are making the workplace more comfortable for employees by using standing desks, ergonomic chairs, and so forth. But you have to consider your obligations to make the appropriate adjustments, but also ensure that you are treating employees fairly. Every employee needs to feel that they are being treated as fairly as the next.

Ensuring the employee is confident

Returning to work isn’t just about putting the stops in place. When you are conducting a risk assessment you need to ensure that your employees feel ready to return. By listening to them and consulting the risk assessment with them directly gives them cooperation in the process and are more likely to agree to return if they have confidence in the steps you have taken to guarantee their return. By giving them confidence at an early stage, you aren’t just helping them back to the office chair but you are showing them what you are doing in great detail to mitigate risk. You need to genuinely listen and respond to your employees’ concerns. Employees need to feel safe in this sort of environment and if they do not, it is going to impact their working day. Quality and quantity may suffer as a result. This is why it’s important that we genuinely listen and interact with our employees to give them the confidence they need. Many employees feel that they don’t get treated fairly or their welfare isn’t a priority. This is why it is so important to give our employees confidence.

Reaching an agreement with an employee

There will be times when an employee feels reluctant to return to their job and the best outcome is to reach an agreement. The recent events have, naturally, made many employees feel reticent to return to the office environment. This is why we need to work solidly to reach an agreement with an employee to make them feel comfortable. Working at home has yielded many benefits, but when we are considering the bigger picture in terms of employee well-being, some may feel more productive coming back to the office. But if it’s an environment not suitable right now, we have to work hard to make the environment conducive to work, but also guarantee that our employees actually feel safe. If we’re trying to get people back into the office because we’re paying rent on a building, it’s not the right way to go about things. Reaching an agreement with an employee is not always easy, and can be long and protracted. But we need to enable the relationship to continue.

When an employee needs to get back to work for whatever reason there will be a significant number of hurdles to jump through. While the pandemic has highlighted that many people are reluctant to return to the office if we want to encourage employees back to the office chair, we may have a lengthy battle on our hands. It’s not just about giving them confidence, but it’s also about ensuring that they are feeling supported by us.

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