Helping Employees Return To Work After COVID
Here's how to get your employees back to the workplace during COVID-19 and handling all of challenges including the new regulations and safety requirements.
With many states reopening or expanding the businesses that can operate, employees are trickling back into the office after (in some cases) months away. But coming back to work in the age of COVID-19 isn’t business as usual—there’s anxiety, there’s uncertainty, and there are a variety of new regulations and safety requirements to work around.
If your employees are headed back to work, here are some strategies for helping them manage the transition.
Keep Them In the Loop
In these circumstances, more information is better than less. Make sure your company is communicating with employees regularly about workplace updates and the company’s plans to keep them safe. Workers who regularly get updates from their employers are more likely to have positive views of them and to look forward to going back to work, according to a survey from Weber Shandwick and KRC Research.
Create a Task Force
Consider creating a group to manage workplace re-entry and address every angle of a return to the office. Include people from human resources, marketing, management, and safety officers. What aspects of your workplace could be risks? What allowances can you make for new safety guidelines? Consider front office staff, IT, and maintenance employees in your plans.
Follow Safety Guidelines
Some 45% of employees are afraid their employer will bring people back to work before it’s safe. Make sure you’re following the guidance of the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), your state and/or local government regulations and guidelines, and let employees know what steps you’re taking. For instance, promote your new sanitation practices, encourage sick workers to stay home, and provide personal protective equipment as needed.
Plan Your Health Station
You’re likely going to need some kind of health set-up in your reception or front office area where you check temperatures, collect health forms, provide hand sanitizer or wipes, and other safety practices. Consider how that will work, where it will be located and what you will provide.
Encourage Mental Breaks
If your office doesn't have an established program for wellness or mindfulness, it's a good time to think about instituting one. Meditation or a midday walk can help workers deal with stress and be more engaged and productive while they are at work.
Consider Flexible Work Policies
Some workers have preexisting health conditions that may make them reluctant to return to the workplace. Others may be eager to return to work, but caregiving responsibilities for children who are remote schooling may make that impossible. As a workplace, it’s important to acknowledge this reality and think about options for employees who either can’t return to work or who feel that returning to work puts them at too much risk.
Some questions to consider include:
- Do you want to offer temporary remote options to some or all employees?
- Are you open to making any positions permanently remote?
- Are there any adjustments you must make to enable a hybrid workplace to function seamlessly?
- What steps can you take to ensure that those off-site still feel included and in the loop?
Train Your Leaders and Managers
Smoothly reintegrating everyone requires a top-down approach that involves all staff who manage people. Consider training on topics like leading hybrid teams, developing empathy, and helping employees cope with their new reality.
Be Empathetic and Understanding
This is a whole new work world, and leaders must be understanding of what workers are going through. Check-in with your employees to gauge their feelings and stress levels. Create opportunities for dialogue and engagement so workers can share their views and experiences. And make sure employees know that you're on their side.
Your staff might feel both excited and a bit uneasy about the return to work. You can make things easier by being organized, following safety guidelines, and keeping the lines of communication open.