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How to Ease Return-to-Office Anxiety Among Your Employees

How to Ease Return-to-Office Anxiety Among Your Employees

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Yes, it’s been over a year since the COVID-19 pandemic hit, changing the way the workforce used to, well, work. But now, with almost 38% of the population in the US being fully vaccinated and most of us having settled in the post-pandemic lifestyle, companies from all over are now getting ready to bring their employees back to the office. The question is, are your now remote employees ready to do that?

How do employees feel about the future of work?

It doesn’t take longer than a quick dive on Google to find many studies and surveys talking about the employees’ take on being back at the office. While these sources, like Microsoft’s research or EY’s 2021 Work Reimagined Employee Survey, may vary in their results, the trend is clear: employees have their reservations when it comes to leaving their remote jobs behind. Or rather, it’s perks.

On average, 70% of the workforce is concerned about losing flexibility. So much so that, according to EY:

 “More than half (54%) of employees surveyed from around the world would consider leaving their job post-COVID-19 pandemic if they are not afforded some form of flexibility in where and when they work.”

EY 2021 Work Reimagined Employee Survey

Talk about taking a hit on employee retention! But, hold your horses. That doesn’t mean your entire workforce is now in full job searching mode. It just means that you need to start addressing their concerns.

So, before doing anything dramatic, like halting your entire plan, it might be helpful to just reconsider your plan and find the best way to ease your employees’ anxiety of being back at the office.

5 ways to handle return-to-office hesitance

#1 Take the right measures

Surely, if you and the rest of the managing team are already planning to bring your workforce back to the office, then you must have thought of how new safety policies and procedures must take place. This is a big one since employees claim health and safety to be one of their top concerns.

Even if you already have a plan, it might be a good idea to go over it once more and check with the CDC’s guidelines for employers and office buildings. Also, try to read more about what other companies are doing to ensure a healthy workplace for their employees.

#2 Communicate clearly and constantly

The key to convincing your workforce to return to the office is to make all of these new changes clear for them. Try to keep them updated on a weekly basis. Keep your management teams in the know with each decision you make so they can pass it on to their teams.

It’s better for people to hear things from their leaders in addition to a generic email.

In any scenario, not knowing what’s going on is a major cause of anxiety. By letting your employees know how things are progressing, you are helping them mentally prepare for the next change in their job. Remember, not being ready for these adjustments bolstered a lot of stress with last year’s unexpected work from home migration.

#3 Get your employees’ feedback

Communication is a two-way street. Employees also want to feel heard. So, besides telling your organization about the measures you are taking based on general workforce trends, you should also ask them what they think.

Not every strategy will work for every company. Going back to the office full-time or transitioning to a new hybrid model is a decision that should fit your current company culture and needs. How has your workforce changed over the last year? Did you get remote hires? Did some of your best workers decide to become digital nomads?

You need to ask to get a better sense of what your company looks like today and their overall expectations. Listen, and act on it.

#4 Start with smaller changes

Once you have a broader picture of where you can take your organization, you can start the transition. But, how about taking it step by step? Even if you decided not to embrace the hybrid office, it might be good to start with a mix of onsite and remote office hours.

Keep in mind that commuting to work has been quoted as one of the main reasons to avoid going back to the office.

Hybrid or not, allow your employees to regain their rhythm and catch up with the onsite routine again. Leave those days at the office for collaborative tasks and let them use their home office time for their individual workflow. This will help them rediscover the value of being at the office.

#5 Share the perks of going back

Get your team excited! Working from home is great, but there are so many perks of sharing a space with our coworkers. This is part of what you need to communicate with your team, not just the decisions made but its benefits. For example, being onsite is better for networking and opportunities to grow (especially for young professionals).

There you have it! Hopefully, these ideas will help you not only navigate your organization’s anxiety of going back to the office but build a better strategy to attract and find top talent.
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