In the past year, many employees, including contact center agents, have been working from home. They’ve been enjoying easy access to their kitchens at breaktime, a significantly shortened commute, and furbabies and loved ones supporting them throughout their workday. For many, though, remote work has drawbacks: isolation, lack of communication, loss of commandery, and an upset to work-life balance.

With workplaces opening back up and employees returning to the office, it’s time to get your employees fired up and ready to return. Here are our tips to prepare your team to return to work:

1. Health Safety. Based on your local laws and regulations, develop a plan for health safety precautions.  This might include a temperature-taking and hand sanitation station at every entrance, providing masks to your employees, and relocating workers, so there is more distance between them. Ensure that workspaces have good ventilation and are cleaned regularly. Most workplaces are not requiring employees to get the vaccine. To encourage vaccine participation, consider providing paid time-off for their injections and any recovery time. Your goal here is to remove anxiety related to returning to the workplace with a thoughtful plan that considers your employees’ health and safety.

2. Consider Some Flexibility. Now that employees have worked from home, some hesitate to return to work on a full-time basis. Consider whether or not your business can offer remote working, perhaps one day a week or more. Remote working could be used as a reward for top performers or a privilege afforded employees who prefer flexible working options. If schools are not reopened in your area, some working parents may be unable to return to work without creating a hardship. Consider how flexible you can be in your policies to foster a happy and healthy work environment.

3. Begin Laying the Groundwork. There are so many benefits of working in person. Start speaking with your team about preparations and precautions to get ready for their return. Give them something to look forward to. For their first week back, consider hosting a makeup birthday party for everyone or a fantasy sports league. Show your enthusiasm for seeing them again. Encourage your employees to speak with a manager if they are experiencing nervousness. Acknowledge how difficult it has been on your team and that they may be anxious to return. Help your team see the many reasons why returning to the office is a great idea. Check out this 22 point list of reasons working from home is bad for your health from our colleagues at Sigma Commerce as one resource. Use this as an opportunity to reinforce your company values. Have some fun with it.

5. First Day. On the first day back, expect to hear employees talk about their hesitation and fears. Have your managers check in with each of their employees to see how they are doing. Be prepared to spend time discussing their concerns and helping them to refocus on work. If an employee has extreme fear, be ready to provide a space for them to collect themselves. If you have team members who do not follow safety protocols, move them into a quiet space and reinforce the policies and procedures to make sure they understand.

6. Make it Fun! A workplace where employees feel valued and appreciated while also having fun doing their work will have higher engagement and productivity. Put into practice the motivational strategies that were used before the lockdown to help your team remember what it was like before. Don’t be afraid to try new techniques, though. Just keep in mind your safety protocols.

When you encounter issues, it’s best to assume that everyone is doing their best. This is a difficult time for everyone. As a manager, do your best to create a safe work environment.