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Managing the Transition Back to the Office
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The COVID-19 pandemic has presented countless disturbances for individuals and businesses across the globe. One of the latest challenges some businesses are facing is the transition back to the office. While every business has health and safety protocols in place, each manager plays an important role in helping the team plan for and eventually make the transition.

Here are a few things I’m keeping in mind as Domtar’s Creative Team begins to think about transitioning back to the office:

  • Make sure everyone understands the guidelines – More than likely, if the transition back to the office has begun at your place of work, health and safety guidelines have been put in place by your company. Long before the return to the office begins, make sure everyone on your team understands the guidelines and are on the same page.
  • Do your Homework – In order to help the team with the eventual transition back to the office, it’s important to make sure you’re thoroughly familiar with all guidelines established by the company. Since inevitably some individuals are taking the situation more seriously than others while at home, it’s important that you stress the importance of current health and safety rules and that everyone sees you following them.

Additionally, the new rules around health and safety in the office might force you to rethink the team’s working environment, especially if working areas consist of cubicles or communal working spaces. Spend some time considering if the team’s working environment meets work safety guidelines, if another arrangement is possible, or if your team needs to return alternating in shifts.

  • Stay Connected – Remember that each individual is unique and faces their own challenges as a result of the impact of COVID-19. If regularly scheduled, one-on-one check-ins with everyone on your team aren’t already a part of your process, consider implementing them now. It’s important to stay connected with everyone on the team and understand any individual struggle or circumstance they may be facing. And, if a team member has circumstances that do not make transitioning back to the office a possibility at this time (such as lack of viable childcare options), you need to be aware of these circumstances so that individual also feels supported too. In trying times, candid one-on-one contact is important in order to stay in touch with how each individual is doing personally and professionally.
  • Don’t forget the positives – The Creative Team at Domtar found several challenges with working from home, but also some benefits. One of the biggest positives was the opportunity to become very familiar with technologies that help us feel more connected to remote colleagues, business partners and vendors. We also uncovered a few process-related benefits. For example, due to the greater proximity, the designers found that many stakeholders supplied more details when requesting projects. Of course, the more detail a designer has, the more likely the end result of the design will succeed in its intended function.

So that we don’t forget the positives, I’ve asked everyone on the Creative Team to begin making a list of benefits they’ve uncovered during their extended work-from-home experience. From there, we’ll figure out how to integrate these actions into our day-to-day processes.

As we overcome the effects of COVID-19, support from a manager can make for a smoother transition back to normal life. If done well, it can also strengthen the bond you have with everyone on the team.

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