While many businesses plan to continue operations with remote workforces, millions of Americans are ready to get back to the office for the in-person work life. Your company may be preparing to welcome staff back onsite, too. But so much time has passed, and a lot has changed since early 2020. How can you authentically engage your teams as they make their way back to work? Are there steps you should be taking as you welcome them back? Here are three suggestions to make sure you put your best foot forward and bring them back with enthusiasm and renewed excitement.
1. Greet Them with Safety Measures
Working remotely and in the comfort of pajamas may be hard to give up for some. But initial analytics say dress code isn’t the biggest hesitation for employees facing a return to the office. Safety is still a concern, despite the increases in vaccines and loosened health department mitigations. As an employer, your first order of business should be safety. Greet your teams at the front door with a host of measures designed to make everyone feel comfortable back in the office.
Clean the Office
Welcome your teams back to a clean and disinfected workspace. Invest in a professional cleaning service to come in and scrub your space from top to bottom. Then detail those efforts to your employees as part of your “welcome back” initiative. Anyone concerned about a stale or contaminated environment will have peace of mind. And the effort itself demonstrates your dedication to employee safety.
Mask & Social Distancing Policies
Regardless of the statewide requirements in your region, consider any necessary masking or social distancing policies for your employees. You may not be able to impose certain restrictions. But you can implement recommendations for continued social distancing or mask-wearing. These measures won’t make everyone feel better about everything. It can, however, set an expectation that you take employee health and wellness seriously. Avoiding a COVID-19 outbreak in your office and being prepared to minimize consequences is critical. You don’t want to bring everyone back into the office, only to have a quarantine situation that sends everyone back home again.
Symptom Management Efforts
Many companies are finding success in flexibility. As you invite your employees back to work, expect occasional setbacks. Alternatively, you can be strict about symptom management in the workplace. Consider putting a policy in place that helps staff identify COVID-19 symptoms and allowing remote work when necessary. Sending someone home with a fever will protect the rest of your staff from potential infection. You may want the entire staff back at the office. But adopting hybrid flexibility in the first few months may be the best model.
2. Refresh the Company Culture
What did your company learn from the pandemic? Were there milestones along the way that warrant changes to your mission? Bringing back your employees presents the perfect opportunity to also address any pivotal changes to the company culture and mission. Let your teams know what they can expect moving forward. And diversity and inclusion will be significant components of those initiatives.
Be Flexible and Empathetic
The pandemic, the election, and household finances have all affected your employees differently. To authentically engage them, be prepared to practice empathy and flexibility. Bring your teams back and encourage them to meet with you or your HR manager to tell their stories. Customize how you engage them moving forward, based on their needs right now. You might have an office full of anti-mask wearers, for example. But if one, and it only takes one, employee lost a loved one to the pandemic and still has health concerns, you’ll need to proceed accordingly.
Recognize Efforts & Loyalties
Everyone has endured more than they bargained for over the last year or so. Welcome your teams back by celebrating their efforts, strength, and loyalty through the toughest of times. Recognize individuals who found solutions for new challenges. Share stories with your teams about the uncertainties and thank them for their valiant efforts to see the company through to a comeback.
New Processes & Procedures
When your employees were working remotely, new processes and procedures became a necessity. Now is the time to review those efforts and make decisions to adopt upgrades and changes. With employees returning to the office, don’t force them to go back to the old ways if more efficient ways exist. And diversity and inclusion initiatives are critical, too. Talk to your teams about what is important to them. Embrace their feedback and new ideas learned over the last year to really engage them upon their return to the office.
3. Communicating New Direction
Don’t just welcome your teams back. Invite them to join your mission with a renewed sense of enthusiasm. Be the voice of your business and communicate directly with your employees. Demonstrate your excitement for the road ahead, and it will be contagious.
Engage Employees with a New Mission
Even if your company is returning to a business-as-usual mission, a lot has changed elsewhere. You might be eager to get revenue levels back up to pre-pandemic conditions. But your teams might need encouragement to find their former in-office inspiration. Consider rejuvenating their batteries by reminding them of the company’s mission.
Identify New Company Objectives
Your company trajectory might have taken a turn over the last year. Be concise about any new directions your business is taking and share those new goals with your teams, including any new products or services you plan to offer. Almost consider it like you’re onboarding your employees for the first time. Bring them into the office and introduce them to the fresh mission and plan. Then remind them how each of their roles will be expected to contribute to that plan.
Identify Individual Career Goals
On the other side of the objectives coin, your employees might also have new career goals at the individual level. Sit down with them and explore their goals and look for ways to create successful paths for them in this new normal. Look to identify how your company can create paths for them to meet their new goals. You can then create incentives and performance tracking accordingly, as well.
Part of your efforts to welcome teams back to the office might include benefits evaluations, too. If you need help exploring your ICHRA options or other health insurance resources for your employees, let W3LL help!