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Returning To The Workplace - Employee Reluctance

As COVID active cases appear more and more under control, many employers are looking to a return to the workplace. What happens when employees resist the return?  Other than the legal and health issues required by an employer for a COVID Safe Workplace, how can you overcome resistance from your employees?

Firstly, is the return to the workplace absolutely necessary?  Can you objectively justify the need and evidence that productivity can only increase by working back at the workplace?

One common resistance may be that an employee believes they were capable of performing at full productive capacity from home and therefore does not see the need to return to the workplace.  Whilst they may have been productive at home, are you able to evidence that this was also during a time of reduced overall business activity and therefore the functions they would perform only at the workplace were not necessarily required whilst they were working from home.

Perhaps evidence may include the fact that suppliers or customers were also working at a reduced capacity and this reduced the need for your staff to function within in the workplace however now that this has changed, the requirement exists for your employees to return.

As an overview, if you can evidence with data why it is essential that employees return to the workplace, use it to strengthen you case.

Secondly, discuss their reluctance.  Understand their reasons for not wanting to return.  Some examples may include:-

  • Commute by public transport or other where COVID safety would be beyond both their own and the employers’ control;
  • Cost savings such as travel, laundry expenses etc;
  • Reduced meetings and other distractions that would occur if in the workplace resulting in greater productivity from home;
  • Easier to manage commitments such as child care and other activities;
  • Greater flexibility in when and how work is performed when home based.

Consider the reasons provided. Determine if there is any way you can assist with their concerns ie., part time at workplace, part time at home, change of work times to reduce commute times and crowd numbers.

Thirdly, consider ways to entice your employees back. Hold welcome back events such as morning teas and lunches. Ensure your management are meeting with employees regularly to discuss any problems or concerns they are facing with the change of coming back to the workplace. Remember it is natural to make routines around your situation.  If employees have been home based for months, they will not be in a routine that requires travel to and from the workplace, or they have possibly cancelled any childcare provisions whilst they have been at home. This will mean that some of your employees are also dealing with the impacts of a change in routine for dependents.

It is important to reinforce the good things as well as the operational needs of working together in a central location.

For assistance with anything in this article, please contact us at [email protected] or 1300 720 004

Information in HR Advice Online guides and blog posts is meant purely for educational discussion of human resources issues. It contains only general information about human resources matters and due to factors such as government legislation changes, may not be up-to-date at the time of reading. It is not legal advice and should not be treated as such.

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