How to Ensure a Smooth Transition from Remote to In-Person Work

With hope on the horizon, many companies are beginning to rethink their workplace structure in a post-pandemic world. For those that opt for a hybrid model or a full return, there will be some steps that will need to take place beforehand to ensure a smooth transition back to in-person work. After over a year of remote work for many employees, reverting back to an in-person workplace may prove to be challenging, given the new expectations that have been put into place as well.

How do you communicate with employees who may be hesitant about coming back to the office or those that would prefer to work from home? How do you contend with the idea that people are even thinking about quitting their current positions? According to Forbes, nearly 25% of employees in the United States stated that they would quit their jobs if work moved back in-person work prior to mass vaccinations. Surely, this is a slightly daunting statistic for employers, especially with a turnover tsunami on the horizon, but steps can be taken to improve things. Keep reading to learn more.


Ensure Safety Measures Are In Place


Especially during these times, people are more health-conscious than ever before, and want to ensure their safety not only for themselves, but their families as well. That is why following all safety measures is important as it will not only encourage current employees to return, but it may also attract new employees who are looking for a company that values their health and safety.


Of course, every company is different and the required measures will therefore differ as well. There are a variety of measures that can take place, including but not limited to:

  • Capacity Limits

  • Social Distancing

  • Temperature & Symptom Checks

  • Cleaning & Sanitization Protocols (between shifts for instance)

  • Personal Protective Equipment

  • Vaccination Requirements

  • Layout Changes

  • Contact Tracing

Everyone will need to do their part to ensure a safe workplace, but setting these rules and guidelines beforehand and communicating this to employees will help identify any other areas of concern.


Support & Engage


The pandemic has presented many challenges, with one of them being employees’ mental health. According to the American Psychological Association survey, it is estimated that nearly 50% of employees in the United States are hesitant about returning to in-person work. Many are burned out from the remote work environment, which is why employers need to step up and provide support. The return to work will affect employees differently, so it is important to open up a dialogue about mental health and provide resources as this transition is being made.


It is also important to understand that the pandemic has had different impacts on employees and employers should try to remain flexible. In a time where employee health and wellbeing have become paramount, allowing for a gradual transition could have better outcomes rather than forcing everyone back into the office immediately.


Once employees are back in the office however, what do you do then? Ensure you follow up with employees and get feedback. Not only will employees appreciate that they are being heard by their employer, but it will also help employers to improve the day-to-day working experience. Additionally, explore other new opportunities for engagement. Whether it is a team-building exercise or a social activity, employees need a morale booster more than ever. This is not only a great way for people to communicate and get to know each other, but also enjoy themselves in a social setting once again. Some ideas that can be done in a social-distancing friendly way include going to an outdoor space (such as a park) or holding a virtual social gathering over Zoom.


Establish Solid Communication With Employees


However, the most important step in this transition back to the in-person workplace is to ensure communication is maintained at all times. Employees don’t want to feel that they are being left out of company decisions, so it is important for employers to give their employees frequent updates.


It is also important that employers and management model a positive attitude for their employees. Lots of employees look to their organization’s leaders and upper management for guidance, so it is important that employees feel that they can approach their employers with any concerns they may have.


Put yourself in the employees’ shoes. If they do not feel that they are being properly informed, they may consider more drastic options, such as quitting or seeking new employment. As the employer, in order to gain back that trust, you need to be the first to inform them of what is going on and how it will affect their position. Of course, this will not guarantee that employees are onboard, but it will give employers an opportunity to gather feedback on how to improve. If people feel more valued by their employers, and thus more loyal, they may be less likely to leave their job for another one. Different employees will require different accommodations, so in this time of transition, employers should stay open-minded and flexible, since everyone will be adjusting.


As employers, keep in mind that bringing employees back to the office will be a rather slow and gradual process. Patience will be required, as the world recovers and resumes to what it once was. Safety, support, engagement, and strong communication are only a few ways that will help reassure employees of success in an in-person workplace, and every workplace will differ. One of the most valuable tools in this case is feedback -- opening that extra channel of communication will help employees not only feel more connected to the company, but improve it as a result.


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Citations:

  1. Castañón Moats, M., & DeNicola, P. Returning to the workplace after COVID-19: what boards should be thinking about. Retrieved June 24, 2021, from https://www.pwc.com/us/en/services/governance-insights-center/library/covid-19-returning-workplace-boards.html

  2. Hyland, P. Bringing employees back to the office safely. Retrieved June 24, 2021, from https://www.mmc.com/insights/publications/2020/july/bringing-employees-back-to-the-office-safely.html

  3. Kislik, L. (2021, January 18). What to do if your team doesn’t want to go back to the office. Retrieved June 24, 2021, from https://hbr.org/2021/01/what-to-do-if-your-team-doesnt-want-to-go-back-to-the-office

  4. Morel, D. (2021, May 12). What will it take to get people back to the office? Retrieved June 24, 2021, from https://www.forbes.com/sites/davidmorel/2021/05/12/what-will-it-take-to-get-people-back-to-the-office/?sh=413768473e62

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