There’s no doubt COVID-19 has thrown us many curve balls. For employees, one of the biggest challenges has been adjusting to working from home. While this became the new norm for millions of people, some are now facing a fresh challenge: the sudden shift back to the office.
The pandemic continues to rest heavily on our shoulders, with unexpected new strains and waves still occurring around the globe. No doubt, this transition back to an in-person office environment has got many employees feeling anxious and overwhelmed.
Thankfully, there are several things you can do as an employer to make the transition process a smooth one for your staff. Here are our top tips for creating an environment that supports both their mental and physical health.
One of the best things you can do to ease your employees back into the office environment is lending an ear. Listen to your worker’s needs as they navigate these uncertain times and show them that you have their best interests at heart.
If it’s feasible, you may even consider allowing employees to mix their time spent in the office with days working from home. According to a study by Mercer, 70% of companies have planned to adopt this hybrid model of work. Even if it’s just for the first few weeks, this will help to ease the pressure of settling back into a new routine.
Set and Respect Boundaries
Be sure to give your employees space after work hours and establish cut-off periods for replying to emails or answering phone calls. Employees will find it easier to transition back to the office if they know they can tune-out of work for the day once they get home. It’s an important step toward an effective work-life-balance, and certainly one they’ll appreciate.
Make Any Necessary Office Changes
Before your employees start to flock back to the office, consider what changes can be made to the space. Were there adjustments you always wanted to make, but never found the time previously? Determine if the décor, color palette, or layout can be altered to create a more functional, beautiful, or uplifting space. Some ideas to consider include rearranging the desks so they have a nicer outlook, using living walls to partition off "zones" within an open-plan layout, or updating your current wall art.
Additionally, you might consider what you can do to make the office a more comfortable space. Whether that's implementing softer lighting or incorporating more comfortable seating, these changes can turn a once-sterile office into a place that feels like home.
Encourage Employee Socialization
After being away from the office and their colleagues for so long, it can be a little awkward as workers get used to being in the same room again. As an employer, you can easily get things back in-sync by organizing social events and encouraging interaction.
It could be as simple as shared lunch times or Friday night drinks. Or, if you’re feeling lavish, a “welcome back” party for staff and their families. For many remote workers, their hardest struggle working from home may have been the lack of social interaction. Therefore, a workplace that values a sense of community is necessary now more than ever before.
Remind Workers of Why the Office is a Great Place to Be
Ironically, the most productive and successful workplaces don't have an "all work and no play" attitude. Take companies such as Facebook and Google, for example. Facebook utilizes Fun Friday challenges, including games that "help employees celebrate the upcoming weekend, encourage conversations, or just have fun together". Google, on the other hand, offers free chef-prepared meals, video games, ping pong, and a dog-friendly workspace.
Think about what brings your employees the most joy within your workspace, then aim to do more of this as they find their groove within the office again. It might be casual Fridays, a workplace ping pong tournament, or a "bring your pet to work" day each month. Every workplace is different!
Implement COVID-Safe Routines
Some workers will relish in the ability to return to the office, while others will be especially hesitant about potential virus exposure. To ease your workers' anxieties and make their health and safety a top priority, implement COVID-safe practices within your office.
One of the top office design trends of 2022 is the implementation of aesthetic “hygiene hotspots." This allows a company to incorporate hygiene protocols into on-trend office design. Government legislation continues to play a large role in the fight against COVID-19, particularly when it comes to hand sanitization to reduce the spread. Therefore, think of some creative ways you might be able to incorporate these practices into your office — whether stored in recessed wall compartments, hidden dispensers, or on statement side tables throughout your space.
Additional things you can do to to minimize health risks for workers is to maintain safe distances between desks, place COVID-safe reminders around the office, and have plenty of spare masks on-hand.
Embrace More Plant Life
One of the most effective ways to boost employee morale, as well as beautify your space, is through the addition of plants. Plants offer a wide range of benefits when featured in the workplace, including improved productivity, background noise reduction, increased creativity, stress reduction, reduced levels of sickness, improved air quality, and boosted mood.
Even employees with allergies can benefit immensely from added greenery in the office.
If your office space is already lacking in the size department, you can maximize your plant life by utilizing unused vertical space. Living walls are a fast and effective way to add hundreds of air-purifying plants into your decor without taking up extra floor space.
The Model Z living wall assembles in less than an hour, fits anywhere in your office, and can be taken with you when you move. Plus, it's designed with hydroponic technology that conserves 75% less water than plants grown in soil, self-irrigates, and monitors plant health 24/7.
Making a Smooth Transition Back to the Office
If your company is in the process of transitioning back to the office, these tips can help. From giving your employees some flexibility to creating a safe, healthy, and welcoming space, these small changes can have a big impact on employee morale.
Adding a living wall may be a great way to ease the transition back to the office, but it will also continue to be a beloved part of your office decor long after the pandemic is over. Contact our team today to find out how Zauben's living walls can help turn your office into a healthier oasis.