Now that the UK is starting to return to normal and people are returning to the office, it’s important to know how to have conversations with employers or colleagues about the new environment we live in and to ensure you’re comfortable with where you’re working.

You have a right to feel safe and comfortable in your workplace - whether this be with a current employer or a prospective employer. Here, we are going to give you the tips you need to help you have those conversations and to create a comfortable working environment.

create space for yourself

Many of us wouldn’t have been in close contact with our colleagues over the past year, with many of us working from home. For some of us, it’s going to be completely natural to feel some anxiousness towards being in close proximity to other people. If you are currently working for an employer, ensure that they have taken steps to ensure that you have the space available to distance yourself from other people if you want to. Even though social distancing is being relaxed, your employer should ensure there’s space for you to distance yourself, or work from home on particular days that space isn’t available.

If you are interviewing for a new role, be sure to have an honest and frank conversation with your interviewer about the work space you’ll be in. Flexible working should be a norm for most companies now, with multiple reports that companies not allowing this are losing employees. Don’t be afraid to ask whether flexible working is an option for you at the company.

communicate with colleagues and interviewers

With a return to close working conditions in an office, communication is going to be key to ensuring you are comfortable being back in the office. It’s important to be mindful that other colleagues may also feel differently about social distancing to you, so be sure to talk to each other and respect each other’s boundaries. Check the attendees in meetings and if there are too many people in one room to make you feel comfortable, talk to the meeting organiser and request that you attend the meeting via video. 

If you are interviewing for a role, it’s key that you tell the interviewer that you still want to maintain distance in the office and ask whether they are able to accommodate that. No company should be forcing their teams back into an office without adequate space to maintain distance from one another. A good tip is to check out a company’s Glassdoor reviews and look for any mention of their handling of Covid restrictions and adaptations. This will give you a sense of whether the company is one that will be accommodating to your needs and will create a comfortable working environment for you.

use the time to connect and reconnect

With so much time apart, the easing of restrictions and a return to the office (even part time) will give us all the opportunity to reconnect with our colleagues face-to-face. The sharing of ideas and regular office banter will be a relief from spending your day looking at them on a screen. Make sure you communicate with your colleagues about your preference for social distancing. If you don’t say anything, they won’t know.

If you are just starting a new role, this is an exciting time to connect with new employees. Try and get some social time with your new colleagues - whether this be grabbing lunch or going for a drink after work. Communicate to your manager whether you want to maintain social distance during these events before you attend. This way, your manager can set the expectations for the team and you don’t have to have the uncomfortable conversation on your first meeting with them.

At Randstad, we not only have the precautions and space to make you comfortable in the office, but also flex@randstad, so you can work flexibly in a location that suits you! Check out our careers below.