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5 Tips for Welcoming Employees Back to the Office

We are in the beginning stages of opening back up offices. Some are considering, some are slowly moving back into their spaces. The voices of employees are ringing loudly with varying comfort levels and desires to go back into the office after more than a year of working from home.  This is not an easy transition, however,  there are a few ways you can spruce up your space and welcome the team back while encouraging a safe work environment.

1. Redecorate Your Workspace

When your team walks back into the office, one of the first things you want them to feel is welcomed. Redecorating your workspace can create an inviting feeling upon their arrival. Freshening the space up with window, wall, and floor graphics are simple ways to make big impacts.  Think creatively! Vinyl graphics can be used not only on windows, walls or floors, but also on ceilings, doors, furniture, and appliances. Think about wrapping your refrigerator like a vending machine or your doors with company-branded graphics.  Creating a statement wall in your office is a great way to build brand pride among your teams. Floor-to-ceiling graphics in a notable area displaying the company’s mission or vision is a way to keep the “why” of the business top of mind.

2. Revamp Visitor Areas

While there may be slow progress to allow in-person meetings, take this time to be proactive in revamping your visitor areas for when that time comes for you. That same welcoming feeling you desire to show your team should be transmuted through common areas such as your lobby, waiting areas, and meeting rooms. We can’t say it enough, vinyl graphics can really change a space! Displaying what your company stands for and who you are through visually pleasing graphics can foster a positive experience with your brand and strengthen relationships -- especially after such a long period of little human connection. 3.Consider Different Comfort Levels Connection between us is vitally important, I think we can all agree to this, but we have been challenged to find different methods of expressing and providing thi. As employees return to work, it will be important to provide resources to aid in the effort of respecting the boundaries of others and remaining mindful of each individual's comfort level for in-person interactions.  In this, we can provide tools to express preferences non-verbally. Think in terms of chair decals, desk signage, lanyards, wristbands, stickers or other visual signals by using a color system to aid in supporting coworkers in their level of comfort. Green can suggest handshakes, hugs, and high-fives are welcome, while yellow means elbow bumps are accepted and red signals no physical contact.  Utilizing social distancing signage is another way to improve comfort. Floor decals in common spaces, signs on tables and chairs in meeting rooms help remind people to keep a safe distance. 

4. Build the Excitement

For many, there will be excitement in the reunion with their co-workers face to face. Building on this excitement will help boost morale and make returning to the office a celebration.  Consider "welcome back" boxes with some of the tools above along with branded goodies to show your support for their return. These types of gestures make us feel valued and a part of the team. When crafting your welcome back box, consider additional items such as: 
  • Information about new guidelines
  • Comfort level indicators and how to use them
  • Essential office supplies
  • Assortment of fun items - ie: hand putty, 3D desk puzzles, self-care items
Returning to the office includes supporting our employees and their personal well-being.

5. Stay Positive

Transition is going to be more challenging for some than others. Remember to stay positive in your messaging and show it through your actions. “Actions speak louder than words” absolutely applies here. There are benefits of returning to the office, such as enhanced collaboration, creative problem-solving and team unity -- find ways to support these activities through action.  Celebrate! Have fun! Recognize team members for their accomplishments, team wins, goals achieved and special occasions that were missed while they were out of the office. Reminders that those events were not forgotten.  There is no doubt it will take time for this transition to be fully accepted. Now is the time to be proactive and take strategic, mindful steps in planning for the best return possible. Engaging your team in the process will only forge a stronger, more unified company culture. 

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