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How To Improve Employee Comfort Levels Before Returning To The Office?

With the COVID-19 vaccine becoming more widely available, workers are returning to the office after more than half a year of working from home. It’s a lot like kids returning to school after summer break, but it’s intensified because many people have been at home for almost a year and a half,” says Kelly Sopchak, a psychologist with the Texas A&M University Health Telebehavioral Care Program.

Consider these 5 actions to increase employee comfort:

  • Survey your workforce 

Survey your workforce and consider segmenting this survey by generation, geography, gender, and type of work environment the employee is currently working in. As the Paychex research shows, there are mounting employee concerns about returning to the office, and these differ by generation and industry. This type of employee survey will create a much-needed two-way dialogue on this topic.

  • Develop a communications plan

Develop a communications plan to explain your organization’s plans in returning to the office. Be prepared to answer a range of questions from employees who welcome a vaccination and mask mandate and those who push back on this. Create an Intranet site to answer these questions and identify an HR contact to provide additional resources.

  • Identify a wide range of safety measures that your organization

Identify a wide range of safety measures that your organization is making to create a safe and healthy return to the office. Consider a range of safety measures such as mask mandates regardless of vaccination status, physical distancing in all locations, temperature checks, sanitation practices, and ventilation and air filtration system upgrades. Increasing the amount of air that is exchanged inside an office decreases the likelihood of infection in the workplace and if your organization has invested in this, it is important to share that with employees. Then, consider adding behavioral economic techniques to maintain physical distancing in the office. For example, if the capacity of a conference room should be four people, only place four chairs in the room.

  • Explore reasonable accommodations

Explore reasonable accommodations your organization can make to increase an employee’s comfort level about returning to the workplace. Some workplace accommodations to consider include extending flexible work for job roles that can continue to work remotely, offering paid time off for medical appointments, and paid sick leave for employees for getting the vaccine and experiencing potential side effects from the vaccine.

  • Support a culture of employee well being

Support a culture of employee wellbeing in the workplace. This is critically important now, as nearly one third of employees have discomfort about returning to the office as uncovered by the Paychex research. We know burnout, isolation, and anxiety are real struggles that workers are facing and leaders must work to establish a culture that empowers their team to sense the signals of mental strain among their workforce. This role modeling of empathic leadership is needed now, more than ever. Leaders who are not building a culture of wellbeing may pay the price by losing top talent to those that do. 

While employers may be eager to see employees back in the office, surging COVID-19 cases tied to the Delta variant are igniting safety and emotional concerns employers must deal with now. Employers and workers must remain nimble as they cope with uncertainty, ambiguity, and changing employee comfort levels in returning to the office.

According to Forbes

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