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Back to the office? Key HR steps for a smooth return

As an HR professional, we get it: you are responsible for so many strategic planning functions within your business that it can feel overwhelming at times.

The past year has been tough on everybody, but the disruption to everyday business operations and a pivot to remote working for many has hit HR teams especially hard. It’s quickly become apparent that HR teams need to streamline processes, and with some people now returning to the office, and more still adopting a ‘hybrid’ model of work, now is the time to ensure you have those vital processes in place.

Every business is different, and some may be venturing back into the office; if that’s the case for your business, you can take some simple steps to ensure everyone’s safety and comfort.

Properly equip managers

The vast majority of businesses won’t be returning to the office full-time, with most either leaving it up to employees to choose where they work or introducing a hybrid approach to office and home-based work.

It’s unlikely that offices will be full to former capacity in the near future, with businesses planning for what works for their business and their people.

Understanding scheduling and the appropriate way to stage a return to the office for those accustomed to working from home will take careful liaison between HR and managers. Each worker will have different comfort levels at returning to the office.

Each worker may feel differently in terms of their comfort level and completing work in the office. In fact, only 21% of workers don’t want to continue working from home at least one day a week, with 19% wanting full-time home-working and the majority preferring a hybrid model.

Navigating these fluid and complex working set-ups can be problematic. Still, HR can stay ahead by properly equipping their management teams with processes to help them respond to these new circumstances.

Answering these simple questions ahead of time will help to ensure that work is not disrupted and your teams are productive without compromising the safety of your teams:

  • Can employees opt out of returning to the office?
  • What types of cleaning products and PPE will be available in the office?
  • How often should employees take COVID tests if they’re coming to the office?
  • How will you accommodate employees with special health concerns?
  • What is the standard procedure if an employee tests positive in the office?

Standardising processes ahead of time will make things easy for everybody; managers will know where they stand, and employees nervous about returning to the office peace of mind. It also makes it easy to keep track of employees delivering against targets and avoid a dip in output.

Adjust onboarding

Whether you’ve onboarded new employees remotely or you’ve held off until you could return to the office, you may need to adjust your training process. You may remember how the office was ‘pre-Covid’, be that navigating the quickest route to the stairs or knowing who could always fix that printer jam, but your recruits are entering a very different office in a very different world. Be sure to adapt your usual onboarding process to accommodate any changes.

As an HR professional, finding ways to highlight company culture despite the evident changes in the office can help new employees feel more connected to their colleagues. Historic onboarding processes may no longer be fit for purpose due to wholesale changes (think, social distancing regulations and flexible working), but prioritising social elements and values-based training helps warmly welcome new starters. We are all adapting, so be especially mindful of new employees that must navigate this lifestyle change on top of stepping into a new role at an unfamiliar company.

As exciting as it is to be returning to the office, whatever that looks like, HR must take the lead in forging safe and responsible ways to go about coming back. Taking proactive steps and a ‘people-first’ approach will build a welcoming environment that shows your company’s dedication to the success of its people and business.

If you’re interested in how remote teams can work successfully, download our new eBook, Remote working: The ultimate guide to support remote teams. Providing you with valuable insight into how you can maximise productivity, manage expectations and implement best practice and tools.

Or you may want to speak to one of our in-house experts to see how our exciting new HRIS system, Sapling, can do the heavy lifting for you and aid your growth.

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Written by Mara Swann

Mara has a passion for promoting equity, diversity, and inclusion across global workplaces and hopes to inspire learners to focus on their own careers with self-directed learning content.


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