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With a coronavirus vaccine on the horizon, many businesses are developing return-to-work (RTW) strategies. Some organizations have adapted well to work-from-home and they are opting to continue 100% WFH, with its greatly reduced real estate costs. Some essential industries, however, never moved to WFH. Many others see hybrid offices as the best balance between WFH and a physical business presence.

The latter organizations are making changes to build their teams’ “covid confidence” – the employees’ assurance that their work environment is covid-safe. Some facilities are hiring environmental health directors to establish operational policies and systems that reduce health risks. Others are working with consultants to redesign foot traffic patterns and reduce touch surfaces like door knobs, light switches, and paper.

Physical changes to the workplace are only half of the covid-confidence picture, however. The other half is leadership. Employees must trust their leaders to have everyone’s best interest at heart.

Experts list three trust-building behaviors that good leaders exhibit.

  1. Establish positive relationships with team members. For covid confidence, leaders should routinely check in with their people about their concerns, and work to resolve conflicts.
  2. Demonstrate knowledge and good judgment. Leaders should be up to speed on covid-safe measures, and use this knowledge to make good decisions.
  3. Be consistent. Unpredictability is the enemy of trust. Teams trust leaders who do what they say they will do to create workplace safety.

The U.K. think tank Resolution Foundation recently found that 35% of employees were actively concerned about contracting covid-19 in their places of work, despite their employers’ significant covid-safe changes. This high level of concern points to a need for greater trust in leadership.

For a successful RTW transition, teams must have a high level of trust in their employers’ covid-safe workplace measures. Designers and consultants can provide the policies, systems, and structures to create safety. It’s up to business leaders to build return-to-work trust and covid confidence.

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