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06.05.2021 Back to Blog articles

An Employers Guide To Supporting Staff When Returning To Work

As an employer you have a duty of care, to support your employees when returning to work for example after illness or maternity leave. However, knowing the best way to do so is not always so simple. In addition to this, many employers are having to find new ways to support staff returning to a more formal office structure after a recent (extended) period of working from home due to the Coronavirus.

There have been many debates as to where the line is drawn in the sand when it comes to an employers duty of care to their employees. The general consensus is that employers should support employees on both a physical and emotional level, both inside and outside the office (within reason). However, although the chaos that coronavirus caused was stressful it has also been quite an eye-opener for employers and employees. Some companies were able to transition to remote working seamlessly, while for others it took quite a bit of juggling.

So as we sit over a year later many businesses are taking the important step of sitting back and reviewing the past year and how it has impacted their business. It is important to note that employers need to look at it from both their perspective and their employees.

12 Questions Employers and HR Managers Should Ask When Supporting Employees Returning To Work 

Whether you are looking at staff returning to work after maternity or sick leave or returning to work after the chaos of covid there are key questions all employers should ask themselves. Here is our simple guide to what questions employers should ask when supporting staff who are returning to work.

Questions For Your Employee

  • Do you want to return to the office full or part-time?
  • Would you be willing to share desk space if they were only returning to the office part-time?
  • Would you consider (or prefer) to use a coworking space or satellite office? For example where staff may find commuting difficult or there are accessibility issues with the main office.
  • Are there any other commitments such as medical appointments that they need to juggle or changes in their circumstances?

 Physical Limitations and Accessibility Related Questions

  • Can the returning employee(s) commute, if so are there any limitations such as cost implications or accessibility? Would they need a parking space?
  • Does the office layout or location present any issues? For example, if an employee has a gained disability is the office floor level? Does it have wide enough doors? Are there stairs, if so is there an alternative such as a lift?
  • Is there any equipment that your employee needs? For example, if they are working out of the office part-time a laptop over a desktop may be more logical? Would the employee benefit from an adjustable height desk?

Emotional Support Related Questions

Knowing how to best support an employee on an emotional level can be very difficult so it is important to note that there is not a one fits all solution. However, some questions to ask may include:

  • Does your employee have any anxiety when returning to work? If so can you give them a desk next to colleges they know well or in a quieter area in the office?
  • Would the employee benefit from a more relaxed work and office structure?
  • If your employee is returning to the office part-time how can you help them feel included in office activities (both work-based and socially)? For example, by establishing a daily meeting via something like Zoom or Google Teams employees can discuss projects in a more relaxed atmosphere similar to break out spaces in an office. Alternatively, a company may choose to support a coffee break zoom or use an office messenger such as slack to encourage staff to discuss non-work-related topics.
  • Can you establish an open-door policy so employees know they can confide in you and come to you with any difficulties or needs?
  • Would you be willing to offer flexible working hours so that staff can attend medical appointments or workaround other important commitments?

At the end of the day, the best way to support an employee returning to work is by working with them and staying flexible. It is important to remember that this flexibility needs to be reflected in all parts of the company including the office space. As a result, it is worth considering the use of coworking spaces as an alternative to working from home or remotely. Coworking and shared offices are an easy, cost-effective way to establish smaller satellite offices/workspaces to address potential employee complications such as accessibility, a lengthy commute or the need to juggle a caring role or medical appointments; which could make returning to work difficult. So regardless of why your employee has been absent the approach to take and the questions you ask stay primarily the same and remember flexibility is everything!

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