A thoughtful approach to returning to the workplace

Are you planning for your department to return to their buildings?

Are staff anxious about returning?

After the first UK Coronavirus “lockdown”, one of our clients needed staff back in the office.

They recognised that people would have concerns and anxieties after months of working from home and wanted to listen to and address these.

Here, Sarah Barber describes how red10 worked with a client to prepare thoughtfully for a return to premises.

Starting with a virtual workshop

People had become used to working from home and felt that they and their families were safe in a home environment. We therefore thought it important that we prepared people for the return to premises by meeting virtually with everyone in their own homes.

A virtual workshop flow that allows reconnection, listening, acknowledgement and preparation.

Reconnect as humans

Not everyone had maintained personal connections during lockdown and their calls had often been just about work. So we began with a “spin round” giving everyone the opportunity to tell their lockdown story highs and lows. There were some very sad stories of families directly impacted by Covid 19, and some high points from people who felt they had been able to spend more time with children and partners.

2 Reflections on working remotely

People shared what was good and had worked well, as well as what they missed and didn’t work well. Many had been glad not to have to spend time and money on the commute and getting out at lunchtime for a walk in the outdoors was also a positive. This was a behaviour they wanted to bring back to the office, making good use of a local park. At the same time, many missed the camaraderie of the office and the relative speed with which issues could be sorted out when people were face to face.

Business update and recognition

A senior leader delivered this part of the workshop. They acknowledged how ready staff had been to be flexible and to find ways to make working from home successful. This particular business did extremely well during lockdown, and the part that all staff had played in creating this success was recognised.

4  Break

We believe that breaks away from the screen are important during virtual workshops.

Hopes and Fears for the return to premises

We used the Zoom whiteboard and the chat and asked everyone to type in their hopes and fears. Whilst they typed, as facilitator I was able to start grouping these together ready for discussion.

Addressing the Fears and realising the Hopes

Leaders had already put in place new ways of working – around cleaning, ventilation and social distancing – that went some way towards alleviating people’s concerns and these were all explained. There were still some fears, and we moved on to the next part of the meeting.

Shared solution finding and contracting

The group together came up with some ways of working that would help reduce anxiety about returning to site. These ranged from how the kitchen would be used to an agreement to support and look out for each other.

What happened next?

Staff did return to the office, in small groups at first to get used to the new layout and ways of working before a full return.

Many who had wanted to stay at home found that they enjoyed being back with colleagues, albeit in a socially distanced way.  They did make better use of the outdoor park in break times.

Then came a second “lockdown”……

Our client was happy that the return to premises had been prepared for in the best possible way. Why not follow our template as and when you need to make this change?  Or get in touch, we would be delighted to try and help.