Cardboard box with folders and office supplies on floor.

‘As employees return to work, wellbeing should be a priority’

6 Jul 2020

Planning on moving your team back into the office? Rhiannon Staples of Hibob shares her advice for doing it successfully.

Rhiannon Staples is chief marketing officer at Hibob, a people-management platform that works with HR leaders to “modernise their business”, particularly for remote workers.

Here, she highlights some of the things companies will need to remember if they are planning to move employees back into a shared office space.

‘Companies must learn to adapt and equip their staff with the mechanisms they need to succeed, no matter their physical location’

Will many companies decide to return fully to the office, do you think?

We’re of the belief that the new workplace normal will be a hybrid of in-office and remote work. For example, big companies such as Twitter, Google and Facebook have already taken the position that working from home has been largely productive and therefore will allow employees to work from home for the foreseeable future. We predict that many other companies, particularly in tech, will follow suit.

The benefits of working from home are clear. From cost savings and employee satisfaction to productivity and beyond, the option to work remotely will attract top-tier talent from around the globe.

For those returning to an office, what are the most important things they need to prioritise for staff?

If employees will be returning to work, it’s imperative that employee safety is kept top of mind. At the outset, employees will likely be unsure and anxious returning to work given the virus has not disappeared. And each employee is likely to have very personal and unique challenges such as commuting, childcare or personal and family health risks. That’s why it’s important for modern workplaces to lead with empathy and flexibility as their workforce returns.

Organisations should consider implementing hybrid work situations, such as staggered work schedules, allowing employees to come into the office two or three times a week and stay home the other days. Flexible approaches such as this allow for fewer people in cramped office spaces at one time, and also give employees some autonomy when it comes to scheduling around work, kids and family.

Employers must provide employees with the necessary tools to get work done efficiently and remotely in a hybrid set-up. Whether that’s through collaboration software, engagement technologies or culture-building exercises, companies must learn to adapt and equip their staff with the mechanisms they need to succeed, no matter their physical location.

What are some initial steps companies can take to start preparing for that return?

If companies will bring their workforce back, they must start slowly. Consider surveying people to understand their level of comfort with returning to the office and what concerns they may have that need to be addressed ahead of re-opening.

It’s also smart to plan for a phased return so any issues or kinks can be worked out in the interim. These types of plans might include staggered schedules, rotation of staff or even starting with voluntary returns.

Lastly, employers should ensure they invest in safety mechanisms required for offices in a post-Covid era: everything from PPE, office cleaning supplies and teams, safe floor plan arrangements and more. As employees return to work, wellbeing should be a priority across all facets of a re-entry plan.

What long-term factors will companies need to keep in mind?

It’s become clear the world of work has been permanently impacted. Organisations must establish strong infrastructure for the new norms of operation and communication following this global work-from-home experiment.

Organisations’ ability to develop the infrastructure and culture needed to ensure successful remote strategy is key to organisational preparedness. It’s vital that companies shift typical protocol – like onboarding and reviews – to be done remotely.

These mechanisms will also allow employers to draw the best talent from across the globe, regardless of location.

What common mistakes should companies avoid, if possible?

For many employees heading back to work, challenges such as organising childcare for those with children still out of school, commuting, public health concerns and more are sure to impact everyone in unique ways.

These are all factors employers must take into account as workers head back to the office. Overall, companies must use the lessons learned during this period to develop the organisational capability to shift again if needed in the future.

Are there any resources or tools you recommend that can help employers prepare?

In order for office re-entry and hybrid schedules to be successful, employers must invest in technology that drives the development of remote culture and engagement and enables seamless communication for dispersed teams, structured goal setting and employee feedback to address productivity concerns.

If companies haven’t already, they should build a remote tech stack that incorporates employee engagement platforms, collaboration tools like Zoom, Slack and Microsoft Teams and project management tools such as

Modern and adaptable technology is a big part of how organisations have been able to shift to remote operations so effectively, so building on these takeaways and advancing the use of technology as companies return to work are major components of facilitating positive workplace outcomes post-Covid.

Lisa Ardill
By Lisa Ardill

Lisa Ardill joined Silicon Republic as senior careers reporter in July 2019. She has a BA in neuroscience and a master’s degree in science communication. She is also a semi-published poet and a big fan of doggos. Lisa briefly served as Careers Editor at Silicon Republic before leaving the company in June 2021.

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