Help Employees Transition Back to the Workplace

Categories: Safety, Employees, Coronavirus, Facilities Maintenance

2020 and 2021 introduced new challenges and opportunities for businesses and employees. It’s been a whirlwind of change, and all that disruption can bring about a lot of uncertainty and anxiety.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, the Martec Group surveyed employees, and 62% of them reported having positive mental health. However, that has drastically changed. An updated survey showed that only 28% reported having positive mental health, and 42% of workers reported difficulty focusing and increased stress levels.

The statistics suggest that prolonged work-from-home assignments could have a major impact on the mental health of employees.

However, despite the reports and the surveys, not all employees want to return to the office. The reasoning may be based on fear, concerns, anxiety, or even inability. A lot has changed over the past 17 months.

Check out the recently updated Stay Open Responsibly, Post-Pandemic Best Practices for Facilities Maintenance.

To have a successful campaign and get employees excited about returning to the office (RTO), you will need to bridge the gaps between business needs, the wants of executives, and the uncertainty that employees feel, as well as overcome preconceived notions or opinions about remote work.

The exodus epidemic

If you are unable to bridge that gap successfully, there have been many markets reports that show your turnover will be much higher over the next year.

In a previous blog, I discussed a new survey that showed that 69% of employees are considering finding a new job this year, and of those 52% are actively job hunting.

How would your business suffer if over half your workforce walked out the door?

Another thing that can be very concerning is the fact that for every person that leaves, the chance that more will follow increases. This domino effect normally occurs because employed staff take on the work and responsibilities of the person who left, and in turn, they feel more frustrated and overworked.

So how can you ease the transition and encourage employee engagement?

Be flexible, each employee has their own needs

Each employee has their own situation and concerns. They may now be a caregiver to an aging parent or friend, be a teacher to their children, or have anxiety around their health or the health of their loved ones. The pandemic may have also caused them to move or sell their car so they could survive.

Talk to employees and listen to their concerns. Create a number of ways to help staff feel safe when they return to the office environment and provide flexibility for a number of different situations.

Extend the transition time

Many people need time to adjust. When businesses needed to close their doors and employees had to work remotely, that was an adjustment. It is possible that some of the mental health and anxiety issues skyrocketed because of the immediate changes that affected so many of your employees’ lives.

Think about how you’ve seen people getting into a cold pool. While some people want to go to the deep in and jump in to get it over with, there are many others that want to step in slowly and get used to the water temperature.

Offer employees the option to step in slowly. When you give employees a chance to get used to change, it can reduce their anxiety and encourage them to participate in the office environment.

Build trust with employees

You have most likely made changes within your facility to promote health and safety. Make sure you let your employees know what you have done and how it will benefit them.

Here are six questions you should be prepared to answer before you ask employees to return to the office.

If your facility has increased cleaning frequency, improved ventilation, and HVAC, installed new indoor air quality technology, or any other COVID-fighting methods, make sure your employees understand what has occurred and how it keeps them safer.

If possible, getting a third party to verify that you are making health and safety a goal can also increase trust with your employees. The WELL Rating System and WELL Building Standard (WELL), have created WELL v2. It provides additional health guidance for FMs to strategize disinfecting, air quality, water quality, and more in order to operate their facilities amidst COVID-19.

Make it fun!

Coming back to the office doesn’t have to be “normal”. Very little has been normal for your employees over the last 17 months. This can be a time to celebrate and show employees how much you’ve missed them.

Returning to the office and seeing other coworkers can be fun. There is a lot to catch up on from the past year. Make sure you give employees time to enjoy the office environment and remember the benefits of leaving work at work.

If your employees love food, celebrate their return with breakfasts, lunches, and/or snacks that are provided by some of your favorite local restaurants. The IRS announced that part of the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021, increased the business-meal deduction for the cost of food and beverages provided by a restaurant from 50 percent to 100 percent in 2021 and 2022 if certain conditions are met.

This can be a great perk that allows you to celebrate your employees, support your community and receive a business-expense deduction.

The time to prepare for employees to return to the office is running out. Great partners like Flagship can make your return to office successful and be that “force multiplier” that adapts with you, offers you guidance, brings expertise, and ensures your workplace runs smoothly every day.


Flagship's customizable approach to the changing needs of occupants and your facility will help you protect your assets now and into the future. From digital solutions to proving single-source Facilities Management, our teams tailor your program to meet your needs and grow with your diverse organization.

Email a facilities expert today and get the help you need to keep your facility healthy and safe, regardless of location.