Is your team returning to the office in the near future? Are you developing a change management plan to help employees adapt to the new normal while taking the necessary safety precautions? You’re not alone! Unfortunately, COVID-19 isn’t going away any time soon. Companies all over the country are working to get employees back to the workplace, masks and all. It’s the responsibility of important stakeholders as well as HR professionals to make this transition as smooth as possible by keeping the lines of communication open for all staff.
Re-Entering the Workplace, Our Newest Challenge
If your business is rehiring or onboarding staff, new policies are coming into play to ensure all employees are healthy and safe. Some of these cautionary options can include rotating employee shifts, performing daily health screenings and providing strict guidelines for workplace cleanliness or hiring on additional cleaning staff. Beyond these measures, when in the office, meetings should be limited to three or fewer individuals and social distancing should be encouraged. HR professionals can communicate these important changes through internal emails or larger communications campaigns. Provide detailed instructions and guidelines. Consider other actions taken by some workplaces, like tape guides for social distancing or installing more hand-sanitizer dispensers and plexiglass in high-traffic areas or where direct interaction is unavoidable.
Still not sure if you should return to the office? Allow employees to work with their supervisors to decide what’s best for them and their personal situation. If an employee feels unsafe, is in an at-risk group or has some symptoms, encourage them to stay home. If an employee is the sole caretaker for their children with no other childcare options available, offer a flexible schedule that works for them or inform them about the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA), which provides paid sick leave for people affected by COVID-19, as well as paid emergency family leave in limited circumstances.
Rise above the Stress
The goal of the change management team should be to lower anxiety about returning to work. The most important thing to remember is to communicate and be flexible so employees know you’re making their health a priority. In the meantime, consider these tips for welcoming staff back while alleviating stress.
1. Provide self-care activities or free therapy sessions to help lessen anxiety around returning to the office.
Purchase or find and share free virtual therapy options to allow employees to cope with any stress as they transition. If you’re open at partial capacity, it might be possible to set up and maintain a quiet or private space that workers can use if they’re feeling overwhelmed or need a short mental health break.
2. Establish a feedback process so employees can give their input on what can be improved during this time at work.
This can include health and safety concerns related to the new measures. Do they think certain areas aren’t being cleaned often enough? Do they think they’re too close to one another? Addressing these issues can help them feel safer. But their feedback can also be geared toward internal processes and helping the business adjust to larger issues. Does the business need to look to new markets because of the pandemic? Is it easier to change an internal process since everyone’s been doing things differently while working remotely?
3. Communicate all updates through company newsletters and town hall meetings, even if they’re still partly virtual.
You can’t have large gatherings but if some people are remote and others can social distance in a larger, on-site space, it will start feeling more normal. This feeling of community will help employees better cope with some of the stressors COVID-19 has created.
4. Invest in the necessary technology and tools to help on-site and remote employees work together more seamlessly and efficiently.
The pandemic hit fast leaving few companies with the full resources necessary to transition comfortably to a work-from-home model. Now that you’re slowly re-opening and know where those gaps are, you can start filling them more effectively.
5. Try to make it fun.
If staff rotations are part of your re-welcoming plan, challenge employees to work in teams to achieve a company goal or have a fun competition like face-mask decorating. This brings attention to new safety measures but in a way that isn’t all doom and gloom.
Welcoming employees back to work may be an unnerving scenario at first but, with proper change management, we can make this new normal as safe and productive as possible. We must remember that every employee is different and faces various challenges in their lives, especially during this pandemic. It’s vital that employers continue working with their staff and keep the lines of communication open. Motivate employees with perks and self-care services to help ease the transition. Wellness needs to be a top priority, so let’s work together to be together again.