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How to Ease Your Team’s Mind About Returning to the Office

no workersIt’s 10 am on a Friday morning when an email is sent out to the organization with the subject line: We resume work in the office. This mail immediately shakes everyone up, especially since the threat of COVID-19 is still clear and present. As visions of contracting the infection and spreading it to family members fill the minds of team members, they start to call or email their line managers in a state of anxiety and outrage.

There are many reasons why some organizations have resumed working from the office. In Nigeria, for example, poor network connectivity and electricity fluctuations experienced while working from home are major drags on productivity. While we may not be able to maintain full remote work, we also want to avoid organization-wide panic, so how do we strike that balance?

I’ve found that the key to putting team members’ minds at ease is to emphasize a commitment to keeping everyone safe and healthy.

The truth is, we all go out and interact with others, despite the ever-looming threat of COVID-19. We go to the grocery store, dine out with friends, and even sometimes go to the malls. We all understand the necessity and enjoy the benefits of interacting with others.

The goal, then, is to implement measures in the office that help our team members feel confident and safe. Here are a few tips that have worked for us so far:

Social Distancing-Compliant Shift Schedules

In most organizations, a full work shift would not maintain social distancing guidelines. Instead, calculate the maximum number of employees that can be within the office space while maintaining social distancing and create shift schedules around that. In most cases, team members will only work in the office a few times a week rather than the full five days.
Implement Safety Measures

It is critical to have COVID-19 safety measures in place in the office to give your team members a sense of security. In Nigeria, face masks are mandatory for entrance into any establishment. Many organizations provide their employees face masks and face shields; team members find this quite helpful and it gives them one less thing to worry about. We also have mandatory temperature checks and enforce the use of hand sanitizers when anyone enters the office.

Increased Cleaning Activities

A robust cleaning schedule helps put employees at ease and reduces the chance of COVID-19 infection. Ensure cleaners have an adequate level of protective equipment so they also feel safe.

Restricted Access to General Areas

Closing or restricting access to general areas like meeting rooms, training rooms, and cafeterias is critical to ensuring social distancing measures are maintained. An example of restricting access to meeting rooms is using a scheduling system to ensure safe staff volume is met. As an alternative, encourage the use of online meetings, even when in the office.

While not all the tips above may not be suitable for your company or location, they are simple and effective. I’ve used them and have seen them put team members more at ease with working in the office.