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Work environment

Guide to HR: Help employees get back to the office

Return well to the office. Both physically and mentally.

Little by little, employees can now return to the office. For it to be successful, it is important that HR, the work environment representative, and management help, and do not expect everyone to just be able to return easily. In this guide to HR, we help with how employees can return safely.

Returning to the office can be stressful for some, but with thorough planning and clear communication and dialogue, HR can help employees navigate safely through the transition from working from home to physical attendance.

Also read: Prevent wrist pain during office work

Many companies want their employees back quickly. But it is important to keep in mind that this cannot happen overnight. It will most likely take time for many to get used to being back - and thus perform at the same level as before.

Guide to HR: What is the role of HR?

HR is the link between the management and the employees in the task of getting everyone back safely. Therefore, there is a big communication task in communicating clearly - both to management and employees, what is to happen and what expectations there are.

A proactive approach is vital, where you articulate expectations from both sides. It is an illusion to think that things can be the same as before.

It is both about the physical work environment, but equally about the mental aspect. Long periods of working from home may have been a strain on some, while others have thrived on it, and have seen what opportunities it offers them. The challenge is to be able to support everyone in the transition and the way you choose to organise yourself in the future.

Help employees return to a good working environment

Physically, a decision must be made on how you best arrange yourself. It should not be up to the individual employee to make sure there is enough distance. Help employees back by making the overall decisions in advance. If the office is to be decorated differently than before, it is important to ensure that good ergonomics are also taken into account in the new spaces - both if the new space is in the home office, on an airfield or just by a new window in the office.

Because after a long time of working from home with varying - and often not good - ergonomics, good ergonomics is even more relevant if possible.

Also read: Ready for the hybrid workplace?

Get good habits from the start when you return to the office

In order to return well to the office, it is important that you make a plan together with your manager. It makes it easier not to fall back into old, bad habits, while at the same time getting your work expectations aligned.

Many of us tend to work way too much when we return to the office, in an attempt to reach all the piles lying on the table. Instead of making that mistake, talk to your manager and possibly your colleagues about how to prioritise it so you avoid drowning in work.

Once you have a prioritisation of the piles ready, it is easier to set a framework for your work day so you do not start out working too much and exhausting yourself. That way, you can also enjoy it when you have free time and not have a bad conscience over what you did not achieve.

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The good habits can also be found in what we have learned from being sent home to work. Perhaps online meetings have worked better in some respects because they could then be kept shorter. Perhaps there are some meetings that have proved superfluous. And maybe you have learned some brand new things about how to work best yourself.

All that you need to take with you in creating some new, good work habits.

Good ergonomics is also a good habit

We were all very quickly thrown into working from home. Most have been sitting in poor home workplaces in the kitchen, living room or children's room that are not ergonomically designed for work.

At the same time, it has probably also been harder to remember that ergonomics is not just about having the right office chair at the right height. It is also about what else you do with your body.

It is therefore a welcome opportunity to get started on the good habits of variety and breaks when you return to the office, where you remember to change working position many times during the day, and take breaks. You can use them to get moving a little, and talk to your colleagues, who also need to remember the good, ergonomic habits.

Also read: Ergonomics in the office: How to put it on the agenda

Overall, a good computer workstation requires five things:

  • An ergonomic chair
  • A height-adjustable desk
  • A correctly set and positioned screen
  • A keyboard that suits you and tends to tilt negatively
  • An ergonomic mouse


Also read: Avoid injuries and save money: The effect of an ergonomically correct workstation

Clear communication also creates a good mental work environment

You must be clear in your communication about how you handle corona (or the remnants thereof) - both in terms of outbreaks, but just as much in daily life with what your guidelines are for disinfection and distance.

For some, this speaks for itself, but for others, it can provide reassurance in knowing that the workplace has formulated the rules, and knowing how they are. Especially that there are clear (and sensible) rules around the kitchen, canteen and other places where everyone gathers.

At the same time, it will also be good to inform about how the cleaning will be in the future. Perhaps the experience of a pandemic has led you to introduce an extra cleaning during the day in exposed places, or perhaps you will ask your employees to clean selected places once they have been there.

If you do, you must also make sure that they have the means for cleaning and disinfection. It should not be the responsibility of the individual. If some demand other cleaning products, make sure they get it.

Make a guide for HR - and for employees

In the big puzzle of getting everyone back, more guides need to be made. Both for yourself - and for the employees.

Because it is not a possibility that everyone has to come in again at the same time. Therefore, plan well in advance how everyone will return. Preferably with a detailed step-by-step plan with defined sub-goals.

It is helpful for employees to know in advance when to meet at the office so they can mentally prepare.

Make sure the communication is clear, and communicate well in advance if there are any changes.

Especially if not everyone has returned to the office. Everyone should have the same communication so that no misunderstandings arise. Therefore, you must also explain why you do as you do.

Help employees return by listening to them

A great help to the employees is also to listen to them - and acknowledge that they are different. Allow space and recognise that some need more flexibility than others in the transition to returning to the office.

A good mental work environment requires spaciousness and room for diversity. Therefore, you must be able to take individual considerations into account and not rush through this transition.

A common understanding must be created of what a good working life is and how you can create that framework together. Therefore, you must both listen to the employees if they come to you, but also facilitate that there is talk about the good working life. For example, by talking together in teams or departments.



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