5 Return to Work Tips for Your Employees After a Crisis
After months of stay-at-home orders and the shuttering of non-essential businesses internationally, many states are beginning to lift restrictions. While this is good news, it is important to proceed with care and caution so as to not risk a second wave of infections.
According to a recent report, 93% of HR leaders will take precautions once their workers return to work, but 7% are unsure how they will proceed.
With public health on the line, the lack of a sufficient plan could have dire consequences. So, here are our top five tips to keep employees safe, informed and engaged when they come back to the office.
1. Ensure and communicate employee safety
This should be a no-brainer, but safety always comes first when returning to work. Employees must feel safe and confident that they are not being put at risk. Proper practices and new protocols to reinforce safety show that the company is concerned about their employees. That’s why communicating the new measures you’ve put in place and the steps you’ve taken to your employees is extremely important.
What are some ways to communicate to your employees that their safety is a top priority?
Start by appointing a dedicated group responsible to analyze the specifics of the situation and formulate a plan for your company. Here are some common examples you should be sure to include:
- Create and post a digital safety guide. You can communicate new safety guidelines by creating and sharing a digital guide with your employees. Be sure to include an intro that summarizes all of the positive practices and healthy safe measures that we need to respect every day. You should give them detailed guidelines of what is expected from them and what are the specific measures put in place by the organization before everyone’s return to the workplace — i.e., sanitizing, mask provisioning, office space rearrangements, etc.
- Give your team a heads-up prior to their return. Communicate all new safety rules and measures taken before everyone returns to the office to establish a comfort level with this transition. This will help lower the stress level for anyone concerned about coming back.
- Provide virtual training around new organization processes. You can help everyone adjust to the new processes by conducting virtual training sessions around them. Walk everyone through each new process step by step and carve out time for Q&A in case anyone is unclear on why certain measures have been taken.
2. Extend work-from-home policies as needed
Many businesses implemented work-from-home policies by necessity throughout the pandemic. Some companies will continue to provide flexible arrangements for those individuals that prefer the stay-at-home model. Regardless of the choice, you should continue leveraging the digital workplace to maintain high levels of productivity and communication.
Maintaining digital connectivity is a good way to ensure that there is no additional disbalance created no matter where your workforce is located. Deploying a strong intranet with social capabilities will help you maintain connections between your teams and keep the flow of information moving throughout your organization.
A social intranet will also ensure your employees can maintain the effective work routine they’ve become accustomed to and keep them motivated and engaged. As a central hub for easy internal communication, team collaboration and knowledge sharing, a social intranet allows remote employees to continue working just as efficiently as they would in the office.
Why do I need to continue the remote set-up?
Working from home will have many benefits for all parties involved, such as:
- Social distancing. Even after a workspace is optimized, it still might be too soon to have all employees return to work full time. Consider staggering returns so that a large portion of your workforce continues to work from home. This ensures that the office has the necessary open space for the employees who volunteer to go or must go into work.
- Insurance against potential future restrictions. If cases spike in the area and lockdown measures are enacted again, it’s easier to transition back to working from home if a portion of the company is already doing so. Going back and forth between working in the office and working from home can be stressful.
- Maintain low overhead costs during uncertain times. Research shows that companies save $11,000 a year for each employee that works from home half of the time. For businesses that have seen significant revenue dips, this savings can add up quickly and help the balance sheet.
3. Maintain internal communication
One of the biggest workplace stressors is the feeling of being left in the dark by management. You can avoid that stress by maintaining regular communication and being open about company news. Take the opportunity to provide answers about common questions regarding topics such as working from home, dealing with children at work, sick-leave policies and more.
What are the best channels for internal communication?
You can use multiple communication channels, like email, corporate intranet boards and even office bulletin boards, but be mindful not to overwhelm employees. Uncertainty increases stress and can lead to “cognitive freezing” from your employees, so be sure to do everything you can to alleviate it.
Whether during a crisis situation or organizational restructuring, employees need additional support and a sense of stability. Using a unified platform like a corporate intranet can help effectively centralize common communication mediums — like news feeds, email, surveys and digital town halls — under one roof. That way your employees know where to look for the most recent information and know they can trust the source.
Start Building Your Internal Communication Plan Now:
4. Engagement and motivation activities
Keep in mind that making changes to your employees’ routines can cause them stress and lead to decreased productivity. It can also adversely affect their morale. As a result, it’s critical to keep all employees — remote and those returning back to the office — as engaged as possible.
How can I make sure my workforce stays engaged and motivated?
Your organization can avoid negative effects by promoting safe social relations between colleagues. Even if a large portion of your workforce goes back to the office, be sure to pay extra attention to the remote contingent as they won’t have the luxury of face-to-face communication. Video calls, chats or even scheduling virtual lunches and happy hours can work wonders in such situations.
Post-quarantine ideas to boost employees morale in the workplace:
- Encourage people to share pictures of pets, art work, favourite books, etc
- Launch a challenge for the most beautiful remote work set-up
- Organize a “Mask Contest” in the office or virtually to promote good habits
Maintaining a social connection with your teammates and participating in company initiatives is a great way to stay positive and enjoy each other’s company no matter where you work from.
5. Stay up-to-date and abreast of new standards
The best way to ensure business security and employee safety is by being proactive. Some scientists and health officials predict there will be a second wave of COVID-19 infections later in the year. That’s why it’s critical to stay informed about current conditions and guidelines and keep your company prepared for potential lockdowns. Closely follow the latest guidelines from your public health department periodically to keep your employees as safe as possible. Additionally, communicate your policies and compliance with the recommendations of health officials on a regular basis to alleviate any possible concerns.
You also need to stay up-to-date on the latest technological advancements to help your company make any necessary adjustments and swiftly adapt to the situation. New video conferencing capabilities, mobile workplace solutions, task management and internal communication platforms are constantly evolving technologies that can boost the efficiency of any digital workplace. Assign a team to monitor new and current technologies to provide the necessary organizational flexibility and adaptability during turbulent times.
Getting back to work. Remember that although restrictions are lifting, it doesn’t mean the pandemic is over. Employees are likely to be apprehensive about returning to work and it’s up to your company to ensure that everyone has safe working conditions.