7 tips for overcoming employee resistance to returning into the workplace

We have all had a year no-one could have predicted where our ‘normal’ was turned upside down at home and work, adapting to working from home, heightened anxieties from the unknown and continuous change, fears of job loss, full-time home schooling, increased workload as a result of others being on furlough, the list goes on…

As UK lockdown starts to lift, we are thankful there is finally a glimmer of light at the end of this year long tunnel. With this, many employers are looking towards the time when they can start to bring teams and individuals back into the workplace.

Whilst for many people they can’t wait to get back to ‘normal’ and join their colleagues in the workplace, we are hearing from a number of our clients that they have begun to encounter unexpected resistance from some not so keen to go back to how working life used to be.

These are natural reactions for people to have as the pandemic continues to be a part of our lives, but as Adastra HR recommend, there are ways in which as responsible business owners and leaders we can reassure our teams and manage this next period of change.

Adastra HR’s 7 tips for supporting your employees to return to the workplace:

  1. Physical Safety
    • Is likely to be the No1 concern so go above and beyond in your preparations to ensure your office environment is physically safe for your employees to return.
    • Take external advice to be sure you have taken the correct procedures to make sure the environment you are inviting your employees back to is Covid safe and secure.
  2. Communication
    • Create a simple briefing document, so your employees are fully aware of the investment and approach you have taken for Covid precautions.
    • Share an FAQ document about what to expect, as they come back to work from furlough or into the workplace.
    • Offer 1:1 time to help anyone who continues to resist to understand why you are asking them back and why this is essential for the business’s future success/growth
  3. Empathetic Leadership
    • Recognise during team calls that many of your team will have had minimal interaction with those outside of their bubble, so returning to a buzzing office will be daunting.
    • Demonstrate you are listening and empathising with your employees’ reasons and concerns to return, by addressing their questions in briefings.
    • Be proactive in communicating how you are taking their concerns into consideration.
  4. Identify the root cause of resistance
    • Encourage feedback and take the time to understand your teams concerns and acknowledged them.
    • Provide ways in which team members can confidentially tell you why they don’t want to return, such as a short staff survey.
  5. Adapting to the changing world
    • As a senior management team take time to consider the alternatives to simply returning to the way you previously operated and why you are asking your employees back to the workplace.
    • Take time to review opportunities for continuing the flexibility currently being experienced working from home and how you can support team members manage their work:life balance.
  6. Managing mental health
    • Now is a good time to review your policies and procedures around managing mental heath to ensure you help people feel supported with the return to the workplace.
    • Consider sourcing external support to give refresher training to the management team around mental health awareness.
    • Review performance management systems and as individuals return to full time work or into the workplace update your understanding of their career goals and development needs.
  7. Introduce change as a positive step towards the new normal
    • Whilst change can be unsettling for some, it brings new energy and life to the business, so making sure you approach it as a positive step and a sign we are heading in the right direction, will help bring the whole team along on the journey with you.

Ali Daymond and the Adastra HR have an abundance of tools and strategies to support you and your team to seize the opportunities of emerging from lockdown and coming back together as a team under one roof. They are licensed practitioners in Discovery Insights, offering engaging tools to help you achieve team dynamics as you re-group and rebuild.  Their clients have described the experience as game-changing for their business and teams.

Get in touch with Ali and her team to support you in getting your team RE-energised, RE-motivated and in the best possible shape as lockdown lifts, taking them from an “exhausted heap” to a “motivated huddle” using the power of psychological learnings and proven learning and development coaching methods, Adastra HR can be contacted via: |