Many businesses are now starting to plan a return to the office in earnest, and considering just how to make this all work. There is a lot to consider: socially distanced desks, queuing protocols at the coffee station, team rotas, continuation of partial WFH.
While it’s important to consider the logistics to keep everyone physically safe and healthy, there is something else that is just as important: your team’s mental health and the specific challenges that return to office will surface.
You might have team members who are raring to get back into the office with all of their colleagues and have put a placeholder in for team drinks at 5pm on the 21st June.
You might have team members who are looking forward to seeing their colleagues but absolutely dreading the commute in, and being packed into a train carriage with lots of strangers for the first time in over an year.
You might have team members who are already panicking about the return to the office – they much prefer permanent working from home but they know their manager will be going in and are worried they’ll feel obliged to do so too.
Each person faced with coming back to the office will have their own personal chemistry of excitement, fear, anticipation, dread, happiness, worry. It’s time to consider how you accommodate all of these different variations in human experience in your organisation’s return to the office planning.
Our 3 top tips to support your team through return to the office
1.Model openness and understanding from leadership
Leadership have a role to play in supporting mental health through the return to the office by modelling flexibility and compassion. Ensure that messaging from the top is not undermined by individual managers who expect to see their team back permanently from Day 1.
2. Embrace flexibility in the long term
The way people feel about returning to the office will change day to day, week to week or even month to month – especially if we find ourselves with new waves of COVID. Some may get more comfortable coming into the office, others might find themselves overwhelmed after a few weeks and in need of a reset. Many businesses will be flexible when first returning to the office, but support your people by committing to a long term horizon, not just the first week or month.
3. Equip team members with the skills to articulate their own feelings and truly understand others
Managing mental health at work is all about the relationships we have with ourselves and with our colleagues. We are all new at talking about return to the office post-pandemic, and we are all trying to feel out what is appropriate, where boundaries lie, and what expectations are reasonable at work. There are a lot of potential hurdles here.
It is essential to ensure your people have the skills they need at their fingertips to navigate these hurdles. Otherwise, the return to the office will be fraught with difficulty regardless of how much planning you’ve done to manage seating capacity.
We can help
Relatability’s three step process gives your people the tools they need to navigate the challenges of the return to office process. We combine online learning and in-person coaching, all aligned to your team’s unique fingerprint of worries and excitement and your organisational back to office approach. Contact us for more information.