Ask the HR Department: How can I plan for a safe return to the office?

By HR and health & safety consultancy Peninsula Canada

As COVID-19 restrictions are being lifted, many remote businesses are beginning to plan for a safe return to the office. We know it’s hard to keep up with so many announcements and mandate changes from health authorities, so here are some suggestions to help your company prepare.

Involve employees in the decision. Involving employees in the decision to go back into the office is important as it will make them feel valued and empowered. However, remember it is the employer’s right to decide to bring their employee back into the workplace.

Provide support. As many employees are still feeling stressed and anxious, you should train managers and supervisors to recognize when a staff member needs additional support. All employees need to be aware of the available resources they can access for help, such as an Employee Assistance Program (EAP). Another way to help is to conduct regular check-ins with your team.

Create a Return-To-Work Plan. To ensure a smooth transition, all staff need to be aware of and in the loop about the employer’s plan to return to work. This plan will be the most important part of a smooth return. It is critical that you communicate with staff about return dates, who is expected to return, and at what frequency they are expected to be there.

If opting for a hybrid model that contains a mix of working from home and working from the employer’s location, write down the details in a Remote Working Policy to avoid any misinterpretation or misunderstanding.

COVID-19 guidelines. Although restrictions are being lifted, businesses still need to have a COVID-19 response plan in place to ensure staff are protected. Many companies are deciding what restrictions and guidelines they may want to keep in place even after mask mandates and proof of vaccine requirements are lifted. Be open with employees and have discussions on what will help them feel safe.