Getting back to the office for SMEs

workspaces, environments

Small- and micro-business owners are kings and queens of agility, used to working solo, often late at night around family commitments or meeting tight deadlines. As we embrace living with COVID, face-to-face meetings are back on the calendar.

After two years of uncertainty, mental health organisation LIVIN says there will be anxiety for many small-business owners and their clients around returning to the office.

Casey Lyons, CEO of LIVIN says that “You are the boss, so you need to work out what works for your business. If you employ people and don’t have an HR department, talk to staff about expectations around returning to the office and what’s fair and important to them. Ask a lot of questions and actively seek the voices of others.”

Here are some practical tips for those getting back to the office:

  • Devise a workplace COVID safety plan including requirements to upload vax certificates, distancing and in some settings masks. While rules have relaxed there will be staff or clients who want to continue wearing masks.
  • Ask clients what their preference is in terms of face-to-face meetings or continuing online engagement. Bear in mind that face-to-face meetings often build a more intimate and familiar relationship.
  • Be alert to cues when meeting staff and clients. While elbow taps have been commonplace, some people will be offering handshakes, hugs, even kisses on the cheek.  
  • Sort your work wardrobe. Chances are the WFH attire won’t meet office standards. Get items dry cleaned and plan your outfit the night before to save last minute stress.
  • Revive routines that may have fallen by the wayside during WFH. Including, Sunday food prep, online shopping, or try a meal delivery service.
  • Round up your public transport card. If you’ll be returning to regular public transport use, ensure it is valid and consider automatic credit card top up. Key items to remember are your work ID, KeepCup, change or pass for parking, phone chargers.
  • Beware of separation anxiety by pets used to having you around. The cat might show their disquiet by peeing on your bed but if your dog is fretting and barking – annoying neighbours – you’ll need to come up with a plan. Consider doggy day-care, a walker or enlisting family members to pet sit.
  • Enlist the kids. It’s one thing getting yourself together in the morning, but if school drop-offs are part of the routine get organised. Get kids to help and look at a reward for the team effort. In addition to lunch prep, have a school lunch order. 
  • Don’t let the good things slip. If your pre WFH routine included a lunch fitness session, coffee catch ups or Friday night drinks, organise some of these dates. The pandemic has put a spotlight on the importance of seemingly small social commitments and personal activities to our overall mental health. If you’ve discovered new joys over the past two years try to maintain them.
  • Breathe. Just about everyone will be experiencing trepidation. If you’re having a hard time re-adjusting, don’t be too hard on yourself. Talk with friends and family about how difficult you’re finding things and consider speaking to a professional if you’re overwhelmed.