As states throughout the US begin to reopen and employees return to their office jobs, employers are faced with the task of transitioning their staff back into office life while also keeping general morale up amid a worldwide pandemic. Work environments in general are not going to look the same for a while, but companies shouldn’t be aiming to return to complete normalcy until the rest of the world does the same anyway. It’s important to be lenient with your employees and allow them to have a solid adjustment period.
Before returning to the office, it’s imperative to create a plan of action on how to handle the coming months and what needs to get done in person, and what can maybe continue to be done remotely. This is where the adjustment period comes into play. Give your employees who have job titles that really don’t require any sort of in-person interaction the option to continue working from home for now if they feel more comfortable with that. Or, suggest having certain employees come into the office one or two days a week as opposed to all five. Things like that will not only make your employees feel more comfortable, but will also strengthen the workplace bond between you and your staff, as they know that you really do have everyone’s health and safety as the top priority; which should be everyone’s top priority.
Bringing your staff back to work is obviously going to be a step-by-step process, hence the importance of writing out a literal step-by-step guide for returning to the office. Some ideas for specific topics you should cover in your new guidelines should include information on clocking in and out, break room/cafeteria activity, office layout, hand washing/sanitizer stations, any hygienic precautions your office will be taking, and information regarding scheduling; as previously mentioned.
“Instead of forcing everyone back into the office at once, [I] recommend a partial return where individual departments come in one or two at a time. Another option would be having employees or departments alternating days between working from home and being in the office. Despite what many employers previously believed, remote work has been proven it can be done. Therefore, employers shouldn’t feel rushed to bring their employees back into the office. It’s best to err on the side of caution and phase employees back in until the CDC informs businesses otherwise,” said Monica Eaton-Cardone, co-founder and COO of Chargebacks911.
Communication is already one of the most essential elements to a healthy and happy workplace, but especially now when everything in the world is so uncertain, it’s important to be as clear and communicative with your employees as possible. Give them updates as you receive them so they feel involved, informed, and like an important member of the team.
Also ensure trust and empathy in your employees, and make it clear that you understand these are some of the hardest times in all of our lives and that you’re all in this together. Don’t put all the pressure on yourself, as the leader, to be the main source of comfort for your employees, but instead create a sense of comradery that lets your workers know we can all help each other as we continue to navigate this pandemic.
“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. If an employee needs to work at home longer or a few days a week, employers should be understanding and willing to accommodate those needs,” said Troy McAlpin, CEO of xMatters.
The main takeaway here is to be compassionate and communicative with your employees the same way you would want your employer to do so. We’re all struggling and scared of what’s going to happen next, but we’re also all strong-willed and hard-working individuals who will make it out on the other side of this much stronger individuals (feel free to use that on your employees).