It's been more than a year since the world faced global paralysis due to the pandemic, and almost every country went into nationwide lockdowns. This impacted almost every business where people got forced to work remotely due to the prevailing situation. However, ever since vaccines have entered the picture and countries have started reporting comparatively fewer cases, businesses have started to adopt a phased return to work plan.
In a time when people started liking the idea of a hybrid workplace, reintroducing the traditional work practices would make workers more nervous and doubtful. So, devising a proper return to work strategy was the need of the hour.
People may argue that everything is running somewhat smoothly in this hybrid environment, so why should they even change? Well, even if your company has the best hybrid office layout, it needs some degree of physical interaction for better teamwork. So, sooner or later, workers had to return to their office. However, the question which arises here is why a gradual return to work is encouraged? To understand that, we shall first have a look at what is a return to work plan, as that will help us understand its importance.
What is Phased Return to Work?
Phased or gradual return to work is about bringing people back to work in phases. This procedure requires some evaluation. In case of the current pandemic, if you are interested in bringing back workers in phases, you should conduct the required return to office risk assessment.
You must know which employees can work from remote areas and which ones are among the first ones you wish to get back to work. Basically, the whole idea is that you have to decide the locations of your office workers, once done that, you can bring the employees respectively.
If you don’t look at this case with a covid-specific viewpoint, you will understand its practice better. For example, companies often adopt it when a worker returns to work after a long break due to illness or maternity leave. In these cases, the worker is given lighter duties upon returning and is made to work for lesser hours. In short, in a phased plan, workers are granted some relaxation so that they can readjust themselves.
Since we have faced a pandemic recently, it is better to bring back workers in this way and provide them a mentally, physically, and emotionally healthy environment with all relevant alterations in your office. We know that you must be thinking why that is so. Well, this is due to its potential benefits that have made us believe that a gradual return to work plan is the need of the hour. So, let’s have a look at them.
Why is it Important to Phase the Back to Work Session?
As managers, you would have noticed how much your team has to go through to adjust to this different work plan which they got introduced during Covid. After all that, adjusting back to the office environment would be difficult for most of them. Most of them would even hesitate to attend crowded places. In such a situation, phasing the back-to-work session seems a viable option.
People need time and space to adjust themselves to these changing work trends, so even if you are bringing them back to the workplace, you should do that in phases. A phased return to work plan would help you gain back your employee’s trust. In addition, you will get more space to provide a physically and emotionally healthy environment and flexible work culture to them.
Detailed Guide for HR Team to Make Phased Return to Work Plan
By now, you would have understood that a gradual return to work plan is suitable in a hybrid work environment to maintain social distance and provide a healthy work environment to your employees. The next thing to understand is the action plan as to how you will go about this work plan and ensure everything works smoothly. Here, we have shared a detailed guide that would help you understand each tier that you must evaluate.
Proper Allocation of Employees
You have to evaluate the duties of each employee and judge how you should team them up in your phased return to work plan. It is better if the people of the same team are working in the same work mode. Having teams with some remote members and some which are coordinating physically makes it tough to manage them. So, usually, all employees working on a single project as a team and having the habit of working together should be in the same phase of the work plan.
Evaluation of The Health and Safety Measures
You are aware that people have become more concerned about the health and hygienic conditions of a workplace ever since the pandemic began. So, it is better to restrict the number of employees and arrange the desks in a way that they have the prescribed social distance. Having constant reminders to tell people to use sanitizers and wash their hands can be helpful here as well.
This distance is not only a concern when the employees are sitting in their cabins and working, but it is also important when they are moving around. So, in your phased return to work plan, evaluate your office space and judge how many members can easily use the lift and walk around while staying at a good distance.
Cater Employee’s Satisfaction
Often workers won’t find it comfortable to have more co-workers around them. The desired interaction would vary from person to person once the workers return to their workplaces. So, you should provide some sort of signal or code to each employee that would help them recognize which so-workers are comfortable socializing. You can think of giving colored wrist bands to employees that would show their degree of comfort in having a social interaction with other employees.
Your employees’ confidence is the need of the hour here. So, you should ensure that you facilitate them the best way so that they find it safe to return to their workplace. You should make them aware of your action plan and explain to them the entire walkthrough what a return to work plan is and how a phased return to work plan benefits them to clear their doubts. In the end, always take your employee's feedback to make a better work environment.
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