Back to the office! Are you ready??

Over the last 6 months returning to the workplace physically seemed like a distant hope or completely unrealistic and in some ways a very frightening prospect. However, over the last few weeks, employers have begun to discuss and prepare for the return to the office, which for many indicates that things are beginning to return to normal.
In fact, in many offices, some team members returned a few weeks ago and have already got used to the new ‘normal’ office environment.

One of the best posts I have seen on LinkedIn recently in relation to this, was a very simple but effective approach which I feel reflects most probably how a lot of people feel about the prospect of returning. This agency had 3 large bowls of brightly coloured wristbands in reception and you had to choose which one to wear:

Green – okay with Hugs and high fives
Yellow – okay with talking but no touching
Red – Hi, I am keeping my distance

Understandably this may prove easier for some people to choose which ‘band they fall into but cleverly indicates to colleagues where they stand on the return to the workplace.
For me, emotional intelligence is key to navigate the return, some people will find this a welcoming prospect and others may be filled with fear.

Anxiety is going to be running high and a general acceptance that some people are going to be more sensitive than others is essential. Socialising and hugging for some will be the norm and others may feel uncomfortable. Some people have gone through a lot during these testing times and others will have breezed through.

Overall, the return to the workplace signifies a positive shift, a move in the right direction for many and the thought of being reunited face to face with work colleagues, back to a familiar routine, is a very exciting prospect.
For those of us who are going to remain working from home for the foreseeable future and a return to the workplace is not going to happen there are certain things which can be implemented to maintain that closeness and give the security that is needed by employees.

Some of the things I have seen over the last few months which have proven to be very successful in maintaining a team bond and can carry on even with the return to the physical workplace:

• Provide and encourage feedback – celebrate milestones
• Be clear about expectations and manage these realistically
• Communicate properly – adopt deliberate communication, resolve issues quickly with a face to face meeting or a phone call
• Encourage self-care and a healthy work life balance
• Team bonding and social events
• Keep mental health as a top priority

One of the crucial things we have learned from this crisis is that human contact is key and plays an essential role in helping people thrive and grow.