Shawn Meaike is the CEO of Family First Life and as his company’s offices began reopening after the lockdown, it was clear to all that there is a synergistic dynamic of having a team working together in one place that is hard to replicate remotely. Below, Shawn Meaike offers some advice to employers on how to make the transition back to the office easier and more welcoming to employees.
Covid was a huge upheaval to lives all over the world. And yet, if there was anything that made the last couple of years of a global pandemic any easier, it was the ability to work from home. But the government has been discussing RTO (return to office) plans for a while, now.
Shawn Meaike explains that companies across the country are now either back to office work completely or are phasing in the reappearance of in-office business. So, how can employees tackle the return of office work, especially making it more palatable to workers who have become used to remote working?
Be an Empathetic but Consistent Employer
A lot of the tension between employer and employees can be managed if business owners have a little more patience and empathy toward the situation.
One way is surely to have a clear plan put in place – often, it’s the uncertainty of a situation as employers float around potential return dates that puts employees at unease. Shawn Meaike explains that those who must factor in childcare especially have to have clear guidelines as to when the RTO date will be.
Much of the time, Shawn Meaike explains that employees simply want clarity in their management, so employers should work at keeping communication channels open. They should differentiate the rules that are mandated by law (vaccinations, the wearing of masks) and those that management have put in place as extra safety precautions.
Prioritize Employee Safety
Lockdown was so important because of the speed with which the virus spread. And while it may now have become part of our lives, it hasn’t gone away completely.
Shawn Meaike says employers should continue to ensure their staff that concerns about safety are of importance. This applies not just to physical health but to mental and even economic health.
Implementing clear safety guidelines, including supporting employees both now and in the event of further potential changes will help put minds at ease.
Consider Compromising on Working Methods
Research has revealed that employees can prefer working from home because they feel more productive. They enjoyed the months they didn’t have to commute and got used to being in a quieter environment.
Shawn Meaike explains this might mean entertaining the idea of working from a different area one day a week: if not from home, then from a different, quieter part of the office, away from the noise and perceived pressure of the office floor.
If the commute is a difficult one, then discuss allowing employees to change their working hours from the ones they worked pre-covid. Just an hour either way can make a big difference to someone’s day if it means not spending hours either stuck in traffic or pressed up against crowds on the train.
Walk, But Don’t Run
It’s not just the returning to work that’s fazing all involved but returning under new conditions. It could be that staff aren’t able to sit close to one another anymore. Shawn Meaike explains large meetings may be replaced by more frequent, smaller ones.
Some are still required to take antigen tests to confirm their eligibility to return. Others, especially those who are unvaccinated, may struggle with the rules of their employer concerning whether they’re even allowed to come back to work.
The trick is to take things slowly, says Shawn Meaike. Everyone’s finding their feet once more and it’s a time of learning once again, in an environment where it’s almost impossible to be exactly the way it was before.
It may be time for a new dawn of office work altogether, and many businesses are struggling at the same time, as they navigate new laws along with employee requests.
Make the Workplace Welcoming
Shawn Meaike says for those who always enjoyed working in an office that had a fun, cohesive working environment filled with staff who worked well together, the promise of coming back to the office is one that has been met with welcome enthusiasm.
But in an office that pre-covid was dull, dry, and dogmatic, workers are more likely to not only look for other work so that they never have to return or will return with even less enthusiasm than they had before being furloughed.
It may mean a complete culture change within the office. Shawn Meaike says this will be much more effective than a day-long, contrived day of free coffees and breakfast in the foyer before the same drudgery as before.
Getting the team back together could be seen as a way for employers to draw a line under poor working practices in the past, and for them to create ways to encourage their workforce to want to return, along with setting goals that the team can attain by working together.