With many of us have only just having gotten into a rhythm of effectively working from home (often while juggling parenting and other responsibilities), the thought of now planning to return to the office can feel daunting – both for employees and employers. But there are was to make the transition back to the office – or a more hybrid home/work model – much more smooth.
There have been some tough learnings over the last few months, as organisations have had to adapt hard and fast in arranging different working models, patterns and navigating uncharted waters. And as we start entertaining the thought of heading back into the office, we wondered whether there was ever going to be such thing as a “return-to-normal” or whether this whole experience has set us up for a “new-normal”.
We’re leaning towards the latter.
So, what does a new-normal mean? Complying by workplace COVID-safety plans, limiting the number of people in meeting rooms, or hot-desking?
All of those seem straightforward, but what isn’t being spoken about is the slight anxiety many of us have around rebuilding face-to-face relationships again – particularly when all we’ve done for months on end now is communicate through virtual meetings.
With this in mind, we came up with some points to consider as you start heading back into the office.
Embrace change as a way of the future
We’ve had to adapt to all types of changes in our working life. But what if accepting these changes and embracing them could be a positive way for both employees and organisations to restructure, refocus and rebuild? This is a chance to do things better, and work smarter, not harder.
Be flexible with working arrangements
If possible, it might be worth considering how a blended model will look for your working arrangements before jumping back into the office full time. By easing in gently, you are less likely to be overwhelmed, and you’ll be able to give yourself the time to adapt back in to working life routines.
Keep things lighthearted and personal with colleagues
After weeks of little face-to-face contact with colleagues, consider starting your next meeting with a lighthearted ice-breaker or an inspiring conversation starter. For example, you could ask your colleagues, ‘If you could live anywhere for 12 months, where would it be and why?’ Or, ‘If you were guaranteed success at another skill, what would you pick?’ This is a great way to reconnect, learn more about each other outside of work, and have some fun. After all, the lines between our ‘work personals’ and ‘personal selves’ have been blurred – perhaps for good – so many organisations are embracing it.
Make a small gesture for someone in the office
A good way to alleviate some of the anxiety you might be feeling going back into the office is to show someone a small act of kindness. Everyone has experienced these work changes differently, so it’s good to be empathetic to your colleagues and do something kind. It could be something as small as bringing them a tea or coffee, or giving them a compliment – a little goes a long way.
Utilise workplace wellbeing infrastructure
If you’re feeling overwhelmed and an Employee Assistance Program is available to you, it is a good opportunity to speak to a professional. Don’t be afraid to reach out to your employee and find out more information. By increasing dialogue around mental health, we can reduce stigma and encourage others to open up.
Relationships Australia offers companies an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) which can help support your staff through challenges with their mental health and relationships. Find out more about our EAP offering, or get in touch with us to learn more about how to increase utilisation amongst your employees.