With ever-changing restrictions and constantly shifting goal posts, it’s been difficult in recent weeks, to grasp hold of anything resembling ‘normal’ when it comes to many people’s jobs. But as the furlough scheme draws to a close, so many employees in North Tyneside face the need to return to work in the coming weeks.

The next challenge for employers and employees alike is getting back into the routines, processes and challenges of the workplace while dealing with Covid-security and the safety of every member of a team. And with the latest guidelines advising to only return to a physical workplace if you absolutely have to, how can employers cope with helping employees return to work on a work-from-home basis?

Officially, furlough ends at the end of October 2020, however it’s understood that the majority of the UK’s working population will have returned to work in some form during September.

The biggest challenge, post furlough

Businesses and teams have the responsibility, now more than ever, to look after the mental health needs of their members. This year has already been a challenge and will have impacted everyone’s lives to varying degrees.

Uncertainty, fear and anxiety have been the ever-present feelings of this year, so returning to work in a continued state of flux could present many staff members with a deeper sense of foreboding than others. Recognising and dealing with the anxieties of every member of a team is crucial to make any return-to-work successful.

Some team members may have worked from home while others may feel completely at sea with new processes, requirements and safety implementations. Introducing a few simple steps to help everyone return on a firm footing should help with a smooth transition back to work.

  • A steady and reliable induction back into the workplace or into the WFH setting will help allay any fears as well as instilling confidence that, as an employer, you care about your team members’ health as well as that of the business.
  • Clear and well-informed processes for safety, behaviour, expectations and reporting problems will make your team feel secure and cared for.
  • Encouraging openness around communication – don’t simply have one conversation with each person about their return to work. Keep checking in on a regular basis and encourage team members to talk to each other or their managers about any issues, challenges or worries they have about returning to work. This is particularly important where team members are working from home, which can be an isolating experience if communication isn’t made a top priority.
  • Invest in mental health first aid training and educate leaders and managers to spot the early signs of mental ill health in their team.
  • Allow some time for readjustment. Work will not be the same place your team left back in March this year. Processes, physical environments, laws, recommendations – they’ve all changed in some way so outline them and allow your people the time to come to terms with them before expecting them to hit the ground running immediately.
  • Be flexible at every turn. Investing in caring for your team now will pay greatly in the months to come. Take the time to allow later starts, earlier finishes, flexibility around childcare or family commitments.

Above all, it’s crucial to avoid assumptions about how people are feeling when they return to work, whether physically or working from home. Take the time to talk to each and every member of your team to find out about their experiences, their thoughts and their mindset. Don’t simply inform, tell and talk – ask questions, listen and support and your team will be back to full strength all the sooner.

If you or your business needs any further help or advice, contact us and we’ll see what we can do to help. We can be contacted by calling 0191 643 6000 or emailing business.forum@northtyneside.gov.uk, or you can contact us on our Facebook page using private messages. You can also view more information about moving forward on our campaign page.

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