Coronavirus restrictions are easing in Australia, which means that a number of industries and businesses have resumed operations. However, many workers continue to feel some trepidation over returning to their offices, especially with COVID-19 still very much in the picture and no vaccine on the horizon. As such, employers are now faced with the challenge of bringing people back into the workplace without sacrificing their employees’ health and safety. To help organisations prepare for the new normal, here are our top tips on how to entice people to return to the office:

Have a Comprehensive Return-to-Work Plan

Having a comprehensive strategy for when workers return to the office is advantageous in many ways. With one in place, you can more thoroughly and effectively protect your employees from the health risks associated with COVID-19. It can also safeguard your company against potential liabilities. Finally, an extensive return-to-work plan reassures workers that their health and safety is a top priority for your company. This can go a long way towards alleviating some of their immediate concerns about returning to the office.

Safe Work Australia continues to be an excellent resource for employers who are navigating the challenges put forth by the ongoing pandemic. On their official website, you can find a useful checklist that can help you formulate an effective return-to-work strategy.

Establish New Office Rules

At this point, it’s safe to say that the coronavirus pandemic has fundamentally changed how people interact with each other and with the environment. Given this, establishing a few new rules in the office can help ease your employees’ minds, especially with regards to contracting the virus from interacting with their co-workers. With adequate guidance and direction, your workers can better follow pandemic best practices regarding social distancing, proper handwashing and sanitising, as well as disinfecting commonly touched surfaces, tools, and objects.

Examples of rules that you can impose in the workplace include mandatory temperature checks at the door as well as a no-mask-no-entry policy. You may also require employees to stay at home if they feel unwell. You can remind your workforce of these new guidelines by posting them in common spaces and other strategic locations.

Improve Workplace Cleanliness and Sanitation

According to Safe Work Australia’s national COVID-19 safe workplace principles, all workers have the right to a healthy and safe working environment. They also emphasise that it is the responsibility of employers to maintain their respective workplaces so that their workers and others are not put at risk of contracting the virus.

You can fulfil this duty by implementing proper cleaning and disinfecting measures in the office. These include regular daily cleaning at least once per day, cleaning between shift changes if employees rotate on shifting schedules, and following other recommendations regarding workplace cleanliness and sanitation.

Additionally, you should provide your employees with the necessary facilities to practise good hygiene in the workplace. For instance, you can stock washrooms with anti-bacterial hand soap or set up hand sanitising stations around the office. Another good idea is to offer free masks and disinfectant wipes for employees to use in shared spaces.

Redesign the Space

The World Health Organization (WHO) and the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) both strongly recommend social distancing as a necessary precaution against contracting or spreading COVID-19. Reopening offices should make the appropriate arrangements to ensure that workers can maintain at least one metre away from each other at all times. For smaller offices, this may mean putting employees on staggered shifts to keep the site from getting overcrowded.

Another way to encourage workers to return to the office is to do away with the open-office plan. For one, giving employees designated private work areas can minimise unnecessary physical contact with co-workers. Most workers who are transitioning back to the office after working from home may also appreciate having a room or cubicle to themselves after sharing the same space with family members or roommates for so long.

Introduce Attractive Perks

Offering meaningful incentives can be useful when persuading people to return to the office. To determine what kind of incentives to offer, employers can look to some common challenges that their employees have encountered while working from home and provide solutions for those issues in the workplace.

For example, one of the most common problems faced by “work from home” (WFH) employees is the lack of ergonomic furniture at home. Employers can provide ergonomic office chairs, standing desks, and laptop stands in the office for employees to use which makes working in the office more attractive. Other perks you can offer include free-flowing coffee, snacks in the pantry, and a designated rest area where employees can take a break from work.

At the end of the day, the best way to entice workers to return to the office is by assuring them that their health and safety is your company’s number-one concern. Given that the situation is still constantly evolving, employers would do well to maintain regular communication with their workers and keep themselves informed of the most recent developments so that they can respond quickly to any changes.

If your organisation requires support in creating the right process to get your team back to the office, book a coaching session with us now by visiting our Priority Coaching page.