While it may seem difficult to believe, there will be a point when companies will open up their offices again as Federal and state governments begin to lift restrictions. Organizations must prepare for that now, or at least engage your stakeholders early for a reintegration discussion. This will ensure that policies and processes are established that will build trust and help employees feel safe and productive.
An organization’s post-pandemic reset plan should contain these three essential components:
Planning for the transition
Before offices can be reopened, examine your infrastructure in light of the pandemic. Should new guidelines be established regarding social and spatial distancing? If there is an open seating plan, does the seating arrangement need to be reviewed? Should employees be provided with protective equipment such as masks or gloves? Will the government mandate screening methods to be put in place for infections such as taking the temperature of every employee before they enter the work area, and if so, how effective will they be?
A cross-functional team, including representatives from legal, workplace solutions, employee engagement, benefits, technology, communications, and a medical expert should be assembled to address these issues. What will work best for your locations will be based on a number of factors unique to your organization, but employee safety should be the factor driving these decisions.
Once these decisions have been made, a comprehensive communications plan should be developed to help employees and managers assimilate back to the office. It should include guidance on how to provide flexible back-to-work options to help balance life challenges that team members may be dealing with post-crisis. You may also want to consider transitioning back to the office in a phased manner, by perhaps initially allowing only certain teams on-site (as governed by business, client needs), continuing to have teams to work remotely, or having the flexibility of both options. An open mind and an agile approach will go a long way.
Leaders should be mindful of the tremendous amount of stress people have been feeling, and it’s possible that some may have lost loved ones or their loved ones might have suffered job loss as a result of the pandemic. Employees should not feel pushed to return, and the creation of platforms to allow for their questions and concerns to be addressed can help foster trust. Many might still be fearful and anxious about returning to work, and an approach of empathy will go a long way in helping teams ease into the new situation.
Re-engaging your teams, safely
A great way to engage your teams after this crisis is by providing a forum to share their stories of how they navigated the pandemic, serving both to help them heal and reconnect with teams. Organizations may also want to use this opportunity to recognize and celebrate employees who exceptionally displayed your organization’s values or went above and beyond during this crisis.
The transition will likely be particularly difficult for managers, and Human Resources leaders should consider providing toolkits for managers to navigate evolved business dynamics.
It’s equally crucial to ensure that there is a focus on activating engagement channels through events and activities. Leveraging Corporate Social Responsibility and Diversity & Belonging programs can be great ways to find opportunities for engagement during the transition.
Progress with purpose
The continued uncertainty externally is another component that cannot be ignored, and you may want to consider how your employees may be impacted. Can you provide them with resources such as enhanced wellness programs? And how can your social impact be modified to address the situation? Engaging experts on how to approach the social and emotional issues appropriately is well worth the investment.
As what the post-pandemic world will look like becomes somewhat clearer, leaders may need to reconsider, re-evaluate, and readjust a number of policies in the interim such as those related to remote working and travel. This will enable employees to see how an organization is adjusting to accommodate the transition phase and foster a climate of reassurance and trust.
It’s hard to imagine what the post-pandemic office environment will look like. But it’s best to start planning now to ensure that you’re adequately prepared and have the tools, systems, and policies that will make your employees feel safe and valued.