How to Handle the Return to the Office

How to Handle the Return to the Office

Following more than a year of the COVID-19 pandemic, businesses are starting to consider whether to ask their workers to return to in-person work. Dozens of major businesses (including Twitter, Facebook, and Square), have made news by announcing their employees will not have to return to the office at all, or will be able to work from home at least part-time. Outdoor retailer REI even went as far as to announce that their new, unused eight-acre campus in Washington State will be sold without them ever moving in. Some companies, like VersaTel Solutions, have always been all-remote. But, for some business owners, having remote workers isn’t feasible, or maybe isn’t desirable. has tips on handling the return to in-person work. Here are their tips:

Don’t Rush Reentry – “Don’t expect that all employees will be eager to return to the office, even if they’re vaccinated. Instead, get employee buy-in by validating individuals’ concerns and asking what will make them feel safe. At Outdoor Living Brands, a group of franchise brands in Glen Allen, Virginia, that includes two-time Inc. 5000 honoree Conserva Irrigation Franchising, a “soft reopening” began last summer, and any employee who didn’t feel comfortable returning was told to continue working from home. If you do decide to set a date for employees to return to the office, avoid making it a requirement, says Kelly DuFord Williams, founder and managing partner of Slate Law Group, a San Diego-based firm that focuses on business and employment law. Besides potentially alienating employees, strict rules can open you up to lawsuits if workers perceive them as discriminatory, so she recommends keeping remote work as an option if you can. If you need to bring people back, make sure they know why–and whom they can contact if they have concerns. Work with your HR department or attorney to stay current on state and federal laws, and when in doubt, follow the strictest regulations regarding workplace safety, she says. Once you have a policy, make sure it’s in writing, along with any exceptions, and is applied equitably to your entire staff to avoid discrimination claims.” VersaTel Solutions has HR specialists who can help you design policies and put them in writing.

Navigating Opening Day – While safety restrictions are still preventing most reopened workplaces from feeling fully “normal,” companies are doing their best to make employees comfortable. Background-check company “Mind Your Business” CEO Karen Caruso suggests small gestures can help lighten the mood, “We do things in our office to help raise the morale during these very stressful times,” she says. “We have stand-up-and-stretch time, goofy time–anything to break up the monotony.” One thing most companies aren’t doing when they reopen is celebrating. Many have yet to reschedule the events that they canceled last year. The CEO’s Inc spoke to advise against requiring employees to show up to company parties–or even large meetings–while they’re still getting reacclimated to office life. While many workers are eager to reunite with colleagues, and employers want to facilitate those connections, any celebrations you hold should be after work hours, outdoors, and optional, 

If your small business needs help navigating the return to in-person work, reach out to us at VersaTel Solutions. Our HR specialists will help you draft policies that will make the transition easier, and give employees the information they need to be successful. In addition to HR, our admin professionals and bookkeepers are here to make your workload easier. Reach out to us and let us help make the return to office as smooth as possible.

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