We have heard countless times that we are in unprecedented times and this applies to every aspect of our lives. Returning to work may bring relief for some and may cause tension for others. While we have all experienced the pandemic we may not have all experienced it in the same way. Some of us will have been working throughout; some of us will have been on furlough for some if not all of the time in lockdown; some of us will have been home schooling; some of us will have been shielding. As we have not all had the same experiences we will not all have the same views. Returning to work after any time away is never easy and after an enforced period of time away, with new rules in place never more so. How can Companies ensure the new ways of working are as painless as possible for all? My advice would be to follow these steps:

  • Listen to your employees; show empathy and try to see their issues from their point of view.
  • Allow your employees to be involved in the changes as much as is possible, within the workplace and explain the decisions you have made and why.
  • Be flexible and understanding.
  • Be alert to any trigger points. Try and address issues by ‘nipping in the bud’ rather than avoiding difficult conversations.
  • Remember to be inclusive.

It is important that the rules your company is following are clear and not left to interpretation. It is important to be honest; nobody has all the answers.   It is inevitable that there will be conflict; all of the ingredients are present. If you have managed to follow the actions above the conflict may be manageable. If not an external mediator might be the best solution. Mediation will provide the opportunity for open, honest discussions, checking out of any assumptions, and clearing up misunderstandings with the purpose of diffusing frustrations and working towards restoring relationships.