A man in businesswear, facing the camera, fist bumps a woman facing away from the camera. The background is an out-of-focus hallway with glass doors.
After a year and a half of working remotely, the time to return to the office is drawing closer. — Getty Images/pixelfit

As more vaccine mandates roll out for companies, coming to the office in person will soon start to resume for most businesses — if it hasn't already. Coming back to the office after a year and a half of remote or hybrid work is a big change for both employers and employees.

Here are eight ways to welcome staff back to the workplace and help them readjust to an office setting.

[Read more: How To Create Positive Hybrid Office Culture]

Communication tools

Keep the communication tools you’ve been using remotely to preserve communication channels and encourage open, honest feedback from employees to managers. Messaging platforms, such as Slack and Google Chat, will still be effective ways to communicate with your team even when you're back in the office. A quick message can prevent a conversation from becoming an email or an in-person meeting that takes up others’ time. As this is how your team has been communicating over the past months, continuing to use these tools will make the transition back to in-person work more seamless.

Welcome gift

When your employees return to the office and their workspaces, welcome them back with a small gift. This can be something for their time in the office, like a reusable water bottle or noise-canceling headphones, or a gift that re-engages them with the community, like a gift certificate to a local restaurant. This gesture can make employees feel valued and communicate that you see and appreciate their flexibility since the beginning of the pandemic.

Foster employee health initiatives

For some of your team members, returning to the office after working from home for the past year and a half can be anxiety-inducing. The idea of face-to-face interaction and commuting might be stressful for some of your staff, so as a leader, emphasize physical and mental health initiatives by prioritizing employee well-being. Leaders and managers should check in periodically with employees to see how they are adjusting. You can also go the extra step by adding fringe benefits like therapy or gym memberships to your employees’ existing coverage.

[Read more: How To Support Employees Post Pandemic]

Survey employees

After the first couple of days or weeks of in-person work, analyze how your employees are feeling by sending out a survey. Ask them how they like the change of coming back to the office, what has been working for them and what changes they’d like to see. Once you've collected everyone's answers, see where you can make improvements to better their working experience.

When your employees return to the office and their workspaces, welcome them back with a small gift.

Discuss normal policies

Working from home during the pandemic added a layer of flexibility to people's work routines. Now returning to the office, they may need a reminder of corporate policies, such as the dress code and time off. Alternatively, the year and a half of working away may have given you time to reflect on your policies and update them. Regardless of which way your company leans, refresh your employees’ memories on important company policies before they return to the office and reinforce them in the office, so everyone understands and complies with baseline expectations.

Offer to change the office’s layout

What many people missed about working in an office was the facetime with each other. Returning to the office is a great opportunity to change your office's layout to achieve the goal of increased collaborative opportunities. Ask your employees before they return to offer feedback on this idea and to give suggestions of which team or group this would work best for — or if it would only be distracting.

[Read more: Future Workplace Trends You Can Prepare For Now]

Hold interactive sessions

During the pandemic, a lack of in-person collaboration was missing from the work process. Returning to the office, there's an opportunity to re-embrace the productivity of those spontaneous conversations. Host interactive sessions with the sole intention to get employees to talk to each other about their work and communicate about challenges or successes. This will help build a sense of collaboration between your workers and help them find solutions to their problems.

Encourage autonomy and cross-functionality

In an attempt to preserve the good that working remotely brought, encourage autonomy and cross-functionality within your team. If you’re a leader with high trust in your team members, confidently give them as much runway as you see fit to let them do their jobs. Afterward, it’s your job to manage their output and ensure they aren't working too much.

CO— aims to bring you inspiration from leading respected experts. However, before making any business decision, you should consult a professional who can advise you based on your individual situation.

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Published November 04, 2021