5 questions about returning your employees to work – answered

September 17, 2020


Businesses are bringing employees back to the workplace, with some offices reopening for the first time in months. Lots of people are keen to get back to a normal routine, but understandably there are concerns. With so much media coverage around the issue, it’s not always easy to find practical advice. Feeling like you’ve got more questions than answers?

Never fear, here to answer some of these questions is Claire, our MD. She’s been working tirelessly over the past few months advising clients on how to support people back into work. She’s done this here at HR180 too – making sure the office is set up for our team to work safely.


“How can I support people coming back to work?”

Communication is key! It starts with knowing what’s holding people back, understanding the things worrying them and asking them how they see it working. If your team is small, this may be a discussion over phone or email. Larger businesses might use internal surveys to gather opinion.

It’s important to include everyone and in doing so, things will crop up you hadn’t thought of before. For example, I hadn’t considered the dogs in our office – when I’m in, they’re in – but with everyone stroking them, they could be an infection risk!

This is new territory for us all and everyone should have their say. Your strategy must be about creating core safety for everyone. Set a standard which can be flexed according to needs. For instance, many of our clients have said to staff there’s no need to wear face masks, but your team should understand they can choose to wear one if they wish.

Once you’ve established your plan of action, don’t just tell people once. You may think that you’ve told everyone, and they remember it, but it won’t sink in straight away.  People need to hear things several times, especially when they’re nervous.

Put it in an email or a shared document. Having the measures written down will provide a reference point for people as they get used to them.

Finally, you need to be prepared to adapt – and quickly. Be flexible in your approach as no-one-size-fits-all and you might have teething problems at first. Keep referring to the government guidelines and keep talking to people!

Provide lots of reassurance and show your team that you genuinely care about their feelings. That’s the fastest way of getting everyone back in and helping them feel good about it.


“Which HR initiatives should we prioritise in the coming months?”

Culture and communication – these aren’t just HR initiatives, but they are the foundations of running the best possible business.

Without speaking with your team, you’re going to lose touch with how they’re feeling, and you’ll miss the signs if people are struggling. Equally, you want to make sure everyone’s switched on to the work they’re doing. With so much going on, it’s easy for people to become disconnected from their roles. Be sure to celebrate successes and discuss any challenges. This kind of open culture will support your business through tough times.


“What can teams do to feel connected while having to remain distanced in the workplace?”

There are loads of things you can do, and it comes down to your team and what they enjoy. Start by asking if they have any ideas. Here are some to get you going:

1. Have a daily catchup on teams.

2. Schedule key updates on the days most people are working – make notes available to those not working.

3. Organise a remote team night!  Airbnb do remote experiences you can join online – we did a chocolate evening with a chocolatier in Jamaica!

4. Set up a lunch Teams space – we have Wetherby Whaler channel to enjoy fish and chips as a team.

5. As a manager, put aside 10 minutes to catch up casually with someone each day.

6. On a Monday, have a catchup just to talk about everyone’s weekends.

7. Send gifs to each other to emphasise what you’re saying and make each other laugh in the process!

8. Move Friday morning breakfast online and ask everyone to attend a call to chat over breakfast. Or elevenses, lunch, or tea…

9. Celebrate birthdays with homemade hats and party poppers. If possible, send a gift with instructions not to open it until the appropriate day.

10. Celebrate other achievements with dressing up days, funny hat days or anything else you can think of, to help everyone feel part of something.


“How can I support the wellbeing and mental health of my team?”

Listening to people and acting on what is said (where possible) helps them to feel heard and supported. Beyond this it’s a good idea to have an Employee Assistance Programme – Paycare or Health Assured are two good choices.

Try to be a trusted source of knowledge that cuts through the noise. Stay informed, follow medical advice, and gather information from reliable sources. When people are worried, it helps to contextualise the situation. For example, remind employees that although the covid-19 rate is increasing, so is community testing and previous peak numbers only included hospitals and care settings. We can influence things by acting responsibly and educating ourselves to risks.

Remember to socialise, have a laugh, and talk about normal things! We must stay safe and cautious as we move back to the workplace, but we can also share in the things we’ve always enjoyed together. Any of the ideas mentioned previously will help support team wellbeing.


“What tips do you have for people managing employees remotely?”

Be very clear about the purpose of each employee’s role and what’s expected of them. Make sure they understand their objectives and know what key results you are using to determine whether objectives have been delivered or not.

We don’t currently need (and most people cannot deliver) presenteeism. Instead, we need flexibility and to make the work we can do count. Motivate your team to be as productive as they can be but let them know you understand it’s not as easy as it was previously.

Make sure you have brilliant systems that are useful and make it easy for people to be productive members of your business. When employees feel supported by processes, resources, and the rest of their team, they can thrive – even in challenging circumstances.

We hope we’ve provided some reassurance and we wish the best to you and your employees over the coming months. Do you have a question that hasn’t been answered? Please get in touch with us – we’re happy to help.

Leeds based HR180 is a team of superheroes in HR Outsourcing, Projects and Consultancy committed to work in partnership with organisations of all sizes to establish working policies to go above and beyond Employment Law requirements, to protect both employees and employers alike. We love to hear from you, so call us on 0113 287 8150 or hit the Rescue Me button.

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