​Getting back to normal: creating a safe space for employees

December 2021 (3)

In this article, we’re going to look at how employers can help create safe spaces for their employees to return to. This will include tips on not only the physical office space, but also creating a mentally healthy environment where people feel they can create their own boundaries of comfort, without being judged.

For many, returning to the office will feel strange. We are going back to commuting and walking around a city/town that’s full of people. Being around such crowds after being in isolation for long periods of time can be overwhelming and can take some adjusting to.

Other’s may thrive in busier environments and are super excited to be returning to the office, yet still, they want to feel safe that they won’t get sick due to being in an un-sanitised office or around unwell people.

So, here are our tips on making your workplace physically and mentally safe for the return to ‘normal’.

Start returning slowly

Instead of a harsh change, transition into the office slowly, starting with a day or two a week. This allows people time to adjust to new surroundings and get used to socialising with more people. It also allows you as a business to adapt your office according to the new normal and keep safety measures in place regarding enough space between employees indoors.

Many businesses are implementing hybrid work where employees organise with their managers which days they prefer to be in the office. These are good conversations to be having with employees before integrating back into the office. As we will later discuss, flexible strategies should be communicated company-wide before heading back into the office.

Communicate the process transparently

Heading back into the office should have a loose process and plan. Each team in a business will have different requirements for working face-to-face. Therefore, managers should be communicating with employees clearly and transparently about their plans and expectations around heading back into the office. This gives people guidance and removes stress of the unknown when returning. It can also make people feel safer to know any safety plans being applied.

Open dialogue is really important to help keep people in the loop, as well as allowing managers to lead by example. The more people talk about certain topics, the more they will feel comfortable about them.

Implement new flexible work strategies

Earlier we mentioned hybrid working. This is largely becoming the ‘new normal’ as many workplaces may never be completely full 5 days a week again. The more people have worked from home, they realise they can just as productive, no matter where they physically are, and even more so, when they don’t have to work the traditional 9-5 hours.

New routines are being formed and people are expecting to have support from employers. It is vital that your employees feel like they won’t have to turn their world upside down again to go back to what it was like before and that they can maintain the work-life balance they have grown to love and understand. Implementing strategies and policies around flexible work will help employees feel supported and secure in their positions.

Enhance your safety strategies and policies

Additional strategies and policies that need attention are those specifically to do with safety. All companies should have basic OHS policies, but these need to be updated and enhanced now to be more in line with all that has changed.

Communicating new changes and plans to do with safety implementations will help employees feel safer and can also act as guidance to what is now expected.

Keep a clean and sanitised space with sanitiser readily available

Obviously, the office space provided should be cleaned regularly and not harbour any nasty germs!

It can also be comforting for sanitiser to be available easily to employees so they can clean their hands as frequently as they wish, especially in areas of the office that are shared like co-working spaces or the kitchen.

Ask for feedback

Feedback is always important! After making your implementations and changes, and after some staff have started to head back into the office, send out an anonymous survey that can be completed online. Allow for open answers to encourage people to share suggestions that could make their experience more comfortable. It’s important to consider all feedback and act on suggestions that are viable and fair.

 

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