Returning to the office after Covid – preparation for employee meetings

Following the recent announcements and the road map for restrictions lifting, more and more businesses will be starting to think about bringing their teams back into the office.  People are the backbone of many SMEs and HR provision is something that we do touch on a lot when speaking to business owners, as part of their overall strategyespecially when employees have had to change their working patterns due to Covid-19.  

Chloe Carey, one of our Business Growth Advisors offers a word of caution, before we all look to embark on a wholesale attempt to return to normal” – it would be useful to step back and see what lessons have been learnt over the past 12 months.  Consider whether the ways of working during Covid-19 have any positive impact on the workplace, employees, service levelsproductivity and profitability. 

Don’t be afraid to make permanent changes based on this data, but more importantly speak to your customers and staff about their experiences. 

One thing you can be sure of is that your employees have had a lot of time to reassessing their priorities and they have been thinking very carefully about how they want their new “normal” to be.  

Research from Deloitte found that  

  • Whilst half of all office-based workers had never worked from home before COVID-19, three-quarters want regular remote working patterns in future; 
  • Twice as many under-35s want permanent flexible working post-pandemic, compared to over-55s; 
  • Almost half of over-55s have returned to offices in some capacity, compared to a third of under-35s; 
  • Office return policies reveal polarisation, with most employees either already back or not expecting to return until 2021 or later 

There will be several factors that influence a person’s outlook, many will relish a return to the workplace whilst others have found a work life balance whilst working from home which fits their personal circumstances perfectly. 

Take the time to meet and talk with staff to discuss how as a business you see things moving forwards and get a view on their position.  It is important as a people manager to understand your teams position.  The following information will help you prepare for and position those discussions, inviting honest, genuine feedback and uncovering ways to improve performance whilst meeting the aims of the business. 


Preparing for an employee meeting  

If the meeting is to be successful in motivating employees and enhancing job performance, it is essential to plan and conduct effective an effective meeting. 

Preparation for an appraisal interview is one of the most important stages of the appraisal process. 

Keeping the necessary records 

We would recommend having the necessary facts about the employee’s recent performance and personal circumstances before you at the time of the meeting. 

Since usually you may only speak with your team members formally once or twice a year, it is advisable for you to make records and thorough notes throughout the year of instances when the employee has performed well, adequately or badly.  Doing this will provide specific, factual examples for you to discuss with them if necessary during the meeting 

Having specific examples will be particularly important if you need to discuss area’s where performance might not have been up to scratch. 

Use the following Checklist for meeting preparation 

  • Do review the job description and notes from any previous discussions. 
  • Do talk to other managers or supervisors, and peers where appropriate, to obtain factual feedback on how things have been going. 
  • Do think through what aspects of the employee’s role, working situation or performance are to be discussed and be clear on any changes that you wish to make. 
  • Do be prepared to back up any decision or change with facts, examples and a business case. 
  • Do consider what points the employee may wish to raise, and think through how any delicate areas can best be handled. 
  • Do agree the date, time and place for the meeting at least two weeks in advance, taking into account the employee’s preferences. Ideally these meetings would take place during normal working hours. 
  • Do create an agenda and share it with the employee. 
  • Do allow the employee time to prepare for the meeting. 
  • Don’t underestimate the time necessary for the meeting. There is no ideal length of time, but it is advisable to schedule more time than you think you will need to avoid having to cut a discussion short. 
  • Don’t forget to brief each employee well in advance about the purpose of the meeting so there are no nasty surprises. 
  • Don’t allow interruptions during the meeting, and make sure that there are no distractions from mobile phones and other electronic devices. 
  • Don’t overlook the importance of taking into account the personality and temperament of each employee.  Any likely reactions should be identified beforehand, and an appropriate response planned. Different styles of interview may be needed to cater for individual needs. A relatively insecure employee may, for example, need a lot of reassurance. 

Chloe has previously written about preparations for returning to the office after Covid and designed a template for meetings with employees.