As lockdowns start to lift, a new set of questions is arising for employers. When and how do you ask your employees to return to the office?

There’s no doubt that some policies and even physical spaces will have to change. In certain cases, you’ll need to make changes to help your employees both at the office and outside of it as well.

As you make preparations for reopening, keep these factors in mind.

Creating a Safe and Supportive Environment

The first hurdle for employers will be addressing employee concerns. Even if you feel that the risks of reopening are relatively low, your employees may feel apprehensive. They want to know what steps will be taken to help them protect their health while they’re in the office.

Considering the physical space is a key first step in addressing these concerns. Open offices have become more popular in recent years, but these environments could increase risks. Installing barriers and making it possible to increase physical distance between employees could be wise moves.

You may also consider how many employees you need to have at the office at any given time. Reducing the number of people in the office could aid social distancing efforts, as well as alleviate employees’ worries.

Other factors must be considered as well. Are employees able to access sanitizer and cleaning supplies to wipe down their desks, keyboards, or other equipment? If employees are expected to share equipment, how can you make sure it’s sanitized and safe for each person who needs to use it?

Another consideration might be the staff kitchen or other shared spaces. Policies around cleaning, storing food, and more must be addressed.

Flexible Scheduling for Return to Work

Another aspect of return to work is the scheduling of employees and when they’ll be onsite at the office. As mentioned, you may ask only a few employees to return to the office at first, inviting more back as the risk is reduced and operations ramp up.

You might also consider offering more flexible shifts, which could help minimize the number of employees in the workspace at any given time. Employees can indicate preferred shifts. Shorter shifts or other options can offer employees more flexibility in terms of when they’re working, which can also assist them right now. Many employees will still have caregiving duties for children or other relatives, so they may appreciate a more flexible schedule.

You could also give employees the option to work from home more frequently. This can be a strategy to manage numbers in the office, while also ensuring your employees are ready to provide for your clients. It might help them manage any other commitments they have, such as caregiving for children.

Consider Revising Benefits Coverage

You may want to think about the benefits you’re offering to your employees. An example might be health initiatives like fitness programs. People can’t head to the gym right now, and you likely won’t be hosting group exercise classes during lunch hour anytime soon. You might offer reimbursement for certain fitness apps or online programs, so your employees can still take advantage of support for their health.

You could also seek to assist employees who need to take public transportation to work. Can you offer private transportation for these employees? If you offer reimbursement for public transit, could you extend it to more private forms of transportation, such as taxis or Uber?

More flexible benefits options will help your employees provide for their needs, so they can stay healthy and productive as they return to work.

With these tips, managing a return to work for your employees can be much more straightforward and supportive.