Returning to the workplace after lockdown

Many members have continued to work as usual through Covid-19, providing healthcare, policing or food. Others have been working from home and will stay working from home. For a lot of us it is likely that the future will involve a return to the office/depot/factory/workplace for at least part of our week.

Here are our top tips, highlighting some of the key considerations from an inclusion and diversity perspective, as we transition back into physical office and workspaces.

Top tips for returning to the workplace

1. Things might look very different to where you left them last year

All of our lives have been changed in one way or another. People have become carers, relationships have ended, children have been born, illness diagnosed or recovered from, loved ones have been lost. It’s essential, now more than ever, to work collaboratively with individuals in the team to gain an understanding and meeting them “where they are”.  Think about using Inclusive Employers Inclusion Passport  (a tool that empowers managers to have these conversations) and consider carrying out an Equality Impact Assessment on the change process of integrating people back into the workplace.

2. The topic of vaccination take up should be approached with respect

Take up has been variable and data shows that certain ethnic minority communities have less confidence in the programme than majority groups for a range of different reasons. If you are encouraging staff to get the jab, do so with an understanding of difference and ensure vaccination does not become a differentiating or excluding factor at work.

3. Most of us are ambiverts – neither completely introvert or extrovert

Depending on where we are on that spectrum, the prospect of returning to a workplace can range from wonderful and exhilarating, to terrifying and overwhelming. Think about implementing a mix of re-engagement plans so everyone can return in a way that enables them to flourish.

4. Buses, trains, tubes, trams are busy places during traditional rush hours

We’ve spent a lot of time being apart, so being in close proximity with those we do not know may take a bit of adjustment. Consider staggered start and finish times so colleagues can avoid busy periods and get used to them gradually.

5. Shared space might be a new consideration in your organisation

We know that lots of employers have reduced their landholding and people will be hot desking more and working a hybrid at home/office pattern. Are there clear arrangements in place to maintain cleanliness in shared spaces, particularly where there are quick turn arounds on desks? How do we empower individuals to personalise their workspaces whilst they’re there for the day and then make it presentable for another person the next?

6. Use your Networks

Networks, as always, present a great opportunity to support individuals, understand concerns and advise leaders. How can these committed groups bring their supportive skills to enable change and feedback on ‘how it feels’ during this time?

7. Consider systems and processes for promotion or allocation of work

This is to ensure that staff who are “out of sight” (working at home) are not also “out of mind” in comparison to office-based colleagues.

8. Go back to basics

As teams suddenly re-connect, relationships re-establish and banter kicks off, is there a need for a reminder of workplace behaviours standards? Colleagues may benefit from “re-induction” – a reminder of values, what they mean in practice, who is around to support them, etc.

9. 2020/21 new starters are still new

Many employers have recruited new staff through lockdown, people that we have never met face to face. These people will not even know where to find the bathroom, so make sure anyone who joined in the virtual world is given a proper induction.

10. An opportunity to review remote/field workers

Whilst you’re looking at reintegrating people into an office space, it may be a good idea to check in with those who might have always been home or field based. Are there any new considerations for these groups? How do you keep them included when everyone goes back to the office?

11.  It’s a new phase and a new world of work for many of us

What does your inclusion agenda look like in this new landscape? Make a plan for a return to work that responds actively to our differences and allows everyone to feel included.