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Transitioning back to face-to-face

My role as Head of People Projects demands that I build relationships constantly to enable me to understand my client’s businesses which ensures that I can provide expert, relevant HR advice and guidance. Pre-pandemic 99.99% of my role was undertaken on a face-to-face basis.

On 18 March 2020 I started to work from home and have done so since, pretty much exclusively. 18 months later and I am going back to work from the office, 60% of the time that is, as we adopt our agile working policy.

It took me at least 12 months to feel comfortable with working from home, having a routine that worked for me, my employer and my family, being productive (even more productive than when I was at the office), working with the new technology like an IT ninja and enjoying being at home whilst working.

I am sure I am not alone in feeling like change takes a while to embed and feel ‘normal’. The fact that I couldn’t visit my clients face to face went from being a complete disaster to a minor inconvenience, as the phone calls, video meetings, emails, texts and even WhatsApp became a lifeline of communication and means to do my job successfully. It’s safe to say I have established a successful way of working from home like so many others I know.

However, the world is opening back up and many employees are being asked by their employers to leave their homes and return to their place of work, either on a full-time basis or adopting a more hybrid way of working.

Coming to terms with this ‘new’ way of working can be difficult for individuals and that is something that many businesses are failing to appreciate. There are a number of things that employees and employers alike can do:

  • Keep an open line of communication when discussing the expectations of a return to work for both parties. Change often becomes more difficult when assumptions are made so be sure to avoid these and be clear and transparent
  • Consider a ‘return to work’ arrangement to ease the transition, often a staged return can help ease any concerns and iron out any efficiency issues while both parties get back to normal
  • Understand the employees’ thoughts on what they perceive the risks of returning to work and face to face interaction to be and explain what H&S measures you have in place to protect them
  • Conduct regular 1:1s with your team members understanding that this is a journey and so there may be bumps in the road that need to be navigated over the short, medium and long term, we have been working from home for a long time and its unreasonable to expect individuals to ‘snap back’ into it.
  • There should be an understanding that productivity may change, this could be due to increased travel or a change of working location. Employers should make short term temporary allowances for this but set clear expectations about outputs when new ways of working are more established. This too can be discussed in regular 1:1s.

It’s important to remember that this is another change that a workforce and business have to deal with, and if we are honest, no one really likes change no matter how many opportunities it offers.

Increased communication that is transparent and regular will also be the key along with sharing the immediate and long term plans of the business with its employees so that they truly feel they are part of the direction of travel and have had an input in that.

If you would like any assistance or advice on how to implement any of the above measures please feel free to contact me on the details below or get in touch with another member of the People Projects team.

People working in an office