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How to Ease Employees Back into The Office After WFH

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Office Screens UK



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How to Ease Employees Back into The Office After WFH

It’s been a long time since we all worked consistently in an office. Thanks to the Covid pandemic, the way we work has fundamentally changed in the last two years. We’ve all had to adjust to more time working from home full time, or taking ‘shifts’ working in the office to keep numbers down and help prevent the spread of Coronavirus. It’s been challenging to adapt to the changing conditions, however, according to a recent survey of 1,500 employees undertaken by Harvard Business School, only 18% of those interviewed actually want to return to work full time in the same way they did before the pandemic.

The same survey noted, however, that only 27% of interviewees wanted to maintain a full-time remote schedule. In fact, 61% of the employees they spoke to wanted to maintain a new balance, working from home two or three days per week and returning to the office for the remaining days. This survey, and others like it, strongly suggest that while 5-day office weeks might be on the outs, a new era of flexible working is on its way - and offices need to react accordingly. “People today really value workplace flexibility and remote work because it allows them to focus their energies on work and life as opposed to commuting.” - Ken Matos, VP of Research at Life Meets Work.  

So if we can assume that the majority of people want to return to their offices but with a new option for flexible working, how can businesses prepare to meet these new challenges? Read on for our 4 top tips for easing employees back into the office after working from home.

1. Be Prepared to Be Flexible

Now that mandated WFH is over, you’re going to have to deal with mixed feelings on the part of your employees. Many will want to retain some of the autonomy they had over their work schedules during the pandemic, and reverting straight back to ‘exactly how things were before’ may not win you any friends. Businesses must learn to adapt and move into a new era alongside their employees. It will take time to implement a routine that works for your staff and your company’s bottom line - but it’s important to take the time and make the effort to do so.

If you’re going to offer flexible working to your employees, you need to do so in a fair manner. Flexible working is a very personal thing - but you can’t end up with one set of rules for one person, and one for another. Your first step is to speak to your staff and find out their needs and preferences. If you’re hearing all your employees equally, nobody will feel left out or abandoned. Remember - if your business has been operating just fine with employees working remotely for the past 2 years, you may introduce resentment if you tell your team it’s no longer possible for them to have any flexibility in working. Mark Zuckerberg famously said: “People are more productive working at home than people would have expected. Some people thought that everything was just going to fall apart, and it hasn’t.”

Start by setting out the rules you want your business to live by; this might be the option to work remotely 2 days per week, or it might be offering full-time WFH to those who want it, with the proviso that they are always online and engaged between certain hours, for example, 10-2pm. Remember - when work happens is just as (if not more) important as where it happens. 

2. Rearrange Your Workspace

If you’ve decided not to bring every employee back to office work full time, then you can re-think the layout and set-up of your office space. Rather than having endless desk banks, if you have more staff WFH then you can perhaps remove a number of desks and follow a ‘hot-desking’ arrangement where no desks are individually allocated - it’s first-come first-served. 

So, now you have additional space in your office. How will you use it? 

You could choose to install a number of ‘pods’ furnished with either tables and chairs for more casual private or group working, or with sofas or beanbags to create a quiet space for relaxation. Or why not use the space for recreation, installing a pool or foosball table to entertain staff during their breaks and lunch hour? David Ogilvy famously said: “Where people aren’t having any fun, they seldom produce good work.”

By creating a new office layout, you’re indicating to your employees that as a business, you recognise that times have changed, and that you’re moving with them. Those who want to be office-based full time can still do so, but you’ve updated the office environment to reflect the new reality that flexible working is here to stay.

ACHOO Modular Desk Partitions

ACHOO® Modular Desk Screens

FRONTIER® Office Screen Desk Dividers

FRONTIER® Office Screen Desk Dividers

3. Create a Welcoming Atmosphere

One of the best ways to ease employees back into the office after a long time working from home  is to remind them how fun it can be to be part of a working environment. While no doubt a lot of people will have enjoyed working from home in their comfiest clothes, many will also have missed the routine and the social aspect of going to work. Welcoming employees back by celebrating your office community is a great way to encourage a positive frame of mind as people return to work.

A PWC survey undertaken during the first months of the pandemic suggested that 50% of employees felt that collaboration and relationship building were significantly more effective in person. Breathe life back into your office community and help people to rebuild their relationships by planning activities and events and bringing back team rituals. Remind your staff that while the office is a place for work, it’s also a place where they can find support, friendship and fun. “ It’s about giving our associates the opportunity to be who they are as an individual, whether that is a community member, a spouse or parent, or anything in between.”   Amy Freshman, Senior Director of Global Workforce Enablement at ADP.

4. Invest in Products That Make People Feel Safe

It’s only natural that some will feel apprehensive about returning to the workplace, particularly if they have been working from home throughout the majority of the pandemic. Although restrictions are being removed in the UK, Coronavirus has not been eliminated (nor is it likely to be) and therefore many will still be concerned about being exposed to the virus in their office.

Investing in a range of Perspex Screens for your office can help to protect your staff from one of the most common forms of virus transmission - known as Contact or Droplet Transmission. This type of transmission refers to respiratory droplets, usually >5-10 μm in diameter, which are expelled when an infectious person breathes, sneezes, coughs, shouts or sings. These droplets are ‘relatively’ heavy in comparison to aerosols and therefore cannot remain in the air for a long time or across long distances. Protective screens can be essential tools to offer protection to your workforce as they form barriers between people, blocking the potentially infectious respiratory droplets from spreading person-to-person. Plus, they don’t just work against Covid; they are also helpful tools for preventing the spread of other seasonal illnesses such as the common cold, flu, Norovirus etc. 

How you set up your Perspex Screens as part of your new office layout is just as important. For more tips, visit our blog How To Partition an Office After COVID-19.

For more information on any of our Protection Screens, reach out via our Contact Us page or call us on 01234 676767.



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