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Five Steps to Bringing Employees Back to the Office after COVID-19

Photo by Daniel Korpai on Unsplash

The Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) has presented unprecedented challenges around the world. As business owners and managers, it has drastically altered the way that our teams work. While many parts of the country are beginning the process of re-opening for physical transactions, some businesses are restraining themselves from re-opening too quickly. 

In an era of unbridled technological advantages, it’s much easier for tech-savvy companies to make the process of returning employees to offices happen slowly. In today’s blog, we’ll look at five steps that your team can take to bring employees back into the office.

Post COVID-19 Step #1: Design and Deploy a Clear Return-to-Work Plan

The first step to take in getting employees back into the office is to set a clear plan. If there’s one thing that can create anxiety, it’s failing to show a united front from management. Take some time to discuss all the contingency plans and possibilities as a senior management team before sharing your plan with employees. It’s important to understand that nothing will undermine the goodwill that your team has for you more than being disorganized.

Depending on the size of your team and working space, every aspect of the workday needs to be considered when designing this plan. Consider shifting to an electronic time sheet instead of using a physical time clock. Consider how breaks and lunches will work, especially if your employees are used to eating together. Take a good, long look at the floor plan of your offices. Will new safeguards need to be added to support social distancing mandates from the CDC?

Once the plan has been determined, deploying the messaging in a clear manner to employees is the next part of the return-to-work plan. Many businesses have been maintaining regular contact with employees to update them on the status of their jobs and other planning items. If you’ve determined that your office cannot adequately accept the entire organization back, consider alternating work schedules to limit the number of people in the building at the same time. For example, staggered schedules or only bringing employees back to the job site a few days a week can ease the burden of going too fast.

Post COVID-19 Step #2: Show Empathy and Flexibility

The second step to the post-COVID-19 return plan is to handle employee return responses carefully, utilizing empathy, flexibility, and emotional intelligence. While your business might have been lucky enough to keep employees working remotely, the same cannot be said for other businesses. Your employees will likely have outside challenges that have an impact on their ability to return to work as normal. The challenges that many parents have been facing are about to be increased exponentially as many schools and daycare centers remain closed or shift to virtual learning. As a result, employers should show understanding and appreciation for employees attempting work-life balance.

According to Troy McAlphin of xMatters, “this is an opportunity to embrace the blending of our already blended work-life balance and provide the worker with more control over their time-where trust is given and trust is returned.” Essentially, managers should provide reasonable accommodations to employees that need more time to get acclimated to these shifts. Fortunately, remote work has become much easier to manage–especially for something that had to happen in a sudden manner earlier this year.

Interestingly enough, research undertaken by Gartner suggests that remote work will increase by 30% in the next decade as a direct result of generational shifts in the workplace. This is happening due to a wave of technology native workers that will come from Generation Z entering the workplace and Baby Boomers and Generation X continuing and beginning to retire respectively.

Post COVID-19 Step #3: Maintain Open Communication at All Levels

The third step is an ongoing process of being open and honest in communicating with leaders and employees. As with other initiatives, some of this might have already been happening throughout your organization. Seeking opportunities to engage throughout the team can strengthen bonds, loyalty, and encourage open communication. These often take the form of virtual town hall discussions, virtual networking activities, and regular check-ins.

As with these meetups and touch points, clearly communicating the return-to-work plans well ahead of time can assist employees with arranging alternative logistics for children and other family requirements. Providing an additional line of trust and respect for those with complicated home lives can pay huge dividends towards building their loyalty.

Post COVID-19 Step #4: Instill a Culture of Safety

The fourth step is one that can take shape as employees begin to return to the workplace. As we’ve already discussed above, returning to the office safely is an important factor for many employees. Once these folks have come to the office that first day, what will they find? How will they complete extra activities like temperature checks? How will things be kept clean and safe between shifts?

Consider how additional safeguards can be put into place. How will your senior leaders encourage employees to remain sanitary and hygienic as they work? Consider adding hand washing and hand sanitation stations in common areas like the front door, break room, and conference room. Look at your floor plan to determine what makes the most sense.

Many schools and businesses have begun giving returning workers their own supply kits. These can be catered to your unique business for items like hand sanitizers, branded masks, sanitizing wipes, dedicated headphones or earbuds, and other goodies. These actions show the level of care and investment that leadership has in employees. These actions can also guide your employees to supporting healthy changes in company culture.

Post COVID-19 Step #5: Contact Solar VPS for Assistance Getting Your Team Back to the Office

Now that you’ve learned the tips for getting employees back to work, let our team provide a safety net. Solar VPS specializes in designing custom solutions. We work hard to help companies of all shapes and sizes. We look forward to helping your team get back to work safely. Contact us today to learn more!

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