While COVID-19 isn’t the first pandemic experienced in this century, it’s the only one that has dramatically changed the way companies work. If you went remote for a time or had employees working on a hybrid model, you might be ready to bring them back to work normal hours.
However, given the severity of the situation, it’s important to do so in a way that provides people with the personal and professional support they need. Here are some steps to keep in mind during the process:
Talk to your employees.
Each and every employee is in different personal situation at home. It’s therefore important to talk to them ahead of time and find out what they’re comfortable with. Some might be conflicted and feel unsafe returning into the office, whether due to a medical condition or a vulnerable loved one at home. Others might be thrilled about coming back to the office. It’s your job to take those different needs into account and provide some flexibility.
Discuss safety concerns and steps you’re taking.
Employees will undoubtedly want to know how you’re protecting their personal safety while they’re at work. You’ll need to explain the steps in place and new requirements staff members must follow.
For instance, discuss any new mask protocols, physical distancing requirements, and policies being followed to clean and sanitize work and common areas. You can also take extra steps, such as making arrangements with local restaurants for meal drop-offs so employees don’t need to leave the building to eat lunch.
Explain what happens if someone tests positive.
You must have clear steps in place if a worker becomes sick or tests positive for COVID-19. Will the entire company quarantine, only those who worked alongside that person, or those on the same shift?
It’s not a matter of “if,” but “when.” Whatever you decide, it’s important to think ahead and think through every potential scenario, so you’re ready to lead your team through it. Employees will feel more comfortable and confident at work during this difficult time, as a result.
Communicate about job-related issues.
There are many changes companies are experiencing due to the pandemic. If it impacts your employees daily tasks or duties, communicate to them the exact details. For instance, will their day-to-day responsibilities change due to fewer workers returning? Or will there be a staggered work schedule? It’s up to you to have these conversations before returning to work so employees know precisely what to expect.
Reflect on company issues overall.
Finally, once you’ve put your employees at ease over health, safety and job-related concerns, talk about how the company is moving forward in the face of new challenges. Perhaps past business initiatives have been paused or new ones are coming to head. It’s important to discuss the big picture for both the short- and long-term so your employees can align their performance with the organization’s current strategic needs.
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