COVID-19 is still here and probably not going away any time soon. This makes it hard to know when it’s safe to return to the office and what that return should look like. As a company we want to ensure our people can return to the office in a way that is physically and mentally well for everyone.
Based on what our customers are doing and how our company is transitioning back to the office, here are our recommendations for returning to in-person work while keeping everyone safe:
Follow Your Local Guidelines
Wondering if you should re-open your office space? First and foremost, keep your organization protected by following state and county guidelines for business closures and public gatherings. If your state is still mandating stay-at-home orders, decision made. Continue to work on strategies for managing your remote workforce.
Don’t Force It
If you do decide to open your office, consider taking it in phases. Keep in mind a return to the office impacts more than just your employees, it affects their immediate and extended families as well. For that reason, among others, returning to work can be a very stressful step for many people. Even with taking precautions for safety, they may not be comfortable returning to the office. Being open to the needs of others and remaining adaptable is key.
Own Your Message
This is unchartered territory for everyone and may be redefining how your organization operates going forward. Build trust and a sense of safety with your workforce by being transparent in your communication. Share plans, expectations, and updates frequently to take away feelings of anxiety and stress. An online FAQ is a great way to address any oft-repeated questions your members may have.
There is no one-size-fits-all solution to re-opening your office. Even if you put precautions in place, return in phases and communicate well, there will be challenges. Keep in mind, other social, mental, and economic challenges are also affecting your employees. As uncertainty abounds, stress levels rise. Help your employees manage their personal stressors by building a culture that encourages EAP use and allows for mindfulness practices and other calming routines in the office.
Now is a great time to hear what your employees are saying and get their buy-in. Surveys are a great way to get employee input. Ask targeted questions and gather opinions to see what headspace your population is in. Let your people feel empowered to do their best work by letting them be heard.
The trajectory of the COVID-19 experience is still unfolding around us. It will present unique challenges to both your company and your employees. Minimize the stress and frustration that can come with it by staying connected to your employees and being open to adapting to their needs and the needs of the company.