People will be slowly returning to the office over the coming months and for some this is causing real anxiety and I can’t blame them.
We like familiarity and certainty but things are changing again. We’re used to the new shopping experience now but being in an office is very different.
For the overwhelming majority you have a desk, a fixed point. You can’t move around as freely as you can in a shop allowing you to constantly distance. Instead you feel ‘chained’ to one spot. For those with the luxury of their own office this might be fine but most people share an office, either a large open plan one or a smaller office. And the equipment on our desks can make them become dust traps. Sometimes just the amount of equipment we have around us can make the office feel dusty and less clean.
When we’re shopping I’m sure we’ve all come across those people who don’t seem to understand social distancing and that makes us feel uncomfortable so how are we going to cope with those colleagues who never seemed to understand personal space let alone distancing? Suddenly a trip to the kitchen seems intimidating.
Then there’s the notices. Major retailers have taken the time and care to introduce new safety signage that is informative whilst being welcoming, reassuring and in line with their brand image. Many offices are likely to resort to hazard tape and printed signs. You know the ones I mean. Those filled with either black or red capitals (depending on how annoyed someone is) on a white sheet of paper. They never feel welcoming or reassuring, and at times they can even trigger anxiety.
And hazard tape – the whole point of it is to highlight danger. Perfect for highlighting the huge hole in the pavement, but not when you are surrounded by it at your desk.
So what can you do?
1. Fresh view
Look around your workplace with a fresh pair of eyes. You’ve taken the steps to make it safe but how does it make you feel?
Are the measures reassuring and welcoming?
If not, how can you make them work for you, your business and your teams? If possible get your graphic designer involved to create signs that fit your brand image and will appeal to your team.
If you aren’t able to use a graphic designer there are plenty of design programmes available such as Canva that you could use and ask someone who is creative and understands the team to put something together.
And if a zombie apocalypse appeals to your team then embrace the hazard tape!
A little humour can be a great way to relax people. Happiness and laughter are critical coping mechanisms for the human body.
Laughter enhances the immune system, increases endorphin levels, reduces pain, alleviates stress and benefits us emotionally.
Humour helps us to put things into perspective, offering us a comfort buffer between us and our worries. It helps us to deal with situations more rationally and helps us face our fears so use humour if it’s appropriate for your team.
3. Virtual tours
Humans like certainty. Stepping into the unknown causes us to worry so do everything you can to reduce the uncertainty for your team.
Talk to your team, share photos and videos to let them know what to expect and show them the new office layouts and locations of screens.
Let them know who will be in the office with them and stagger the start and leave times.
Encourage your staff to share their returning to work worries with you and work together to minimise these.
4. Create a warm welcome
Welcome your team back. Perhaps create kits with antibacterial wipes, hand sanitiser, face coverings and anything else they need. Don’t just dump them on the desk, place them nicely and add a little printed welcome back note – it’s these little touches which can make a difference.
Take the time to really welcome your team back into the workplace, check in with them before and after they return, listen to them and convey they are safe in a reassuring way.
A little bit of caring can go a long way.
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