The last several months has taught us a lot about our work routines and disruption. Work will never be the same from employee safety to facilities and workplace services to business continuity. With local shelter in place regulations easing, conversation about returning to work include everything from crisis management to managing new ways of working and where we work. The pandemic also created the opportunity for employers to be more creative and flexible in meeting employee needs.
Founders would be wise to consider all the tactical, legal, and talent factors during the process of ‘re-boarding.’ Here are some things to consider:
1. Lost employee engagement both of returning furloughed employees and employees who remained on the job working from home. Some employees will be apprehensive about returning to the office for physical health reasons and mental health challenges such as anxiety and stress, while furloughed employee may see returning to work as a temporary situation because they were seeking other opportunities while gone. Create ways for employees to express their concerns and encourage frequent communication and check-ins as part of the process.
2. Deciding who to bring back. There are three considerations for Founders: current talent needs, employee sentiment, and liability for discrimination in the process. All employees experienced trauma and stress during the epidemic but those who were furloughed experienced a loss of trust between the employee and employer. Be sure to document in writing why you chose to bring back certain groups of employees before others as well as one employee over the other in similar job types.
3. Determine if your talent needs evolved or changed due to the pandemic. Some Founders were able to successfully pivot their companies which may have resulted in a new set of skills and experience needed to sustain the new strategy. Strategic reasons like these may be acceptable as long as you document (see 2 above). Be sure to emphasize the importance and value the employee brings returning to the role. Managers need to meet with employees to realign expectations, discuss new workplace needs, and ensure mutual understanding of all protocols and processes.
4. Communicate as soon as practicable. For furloughed employees it all starts with a formal letter outlining the restart date, terms of employment (pay and benefits) and acknowledge of changes to previous employment terms and new workplace safety procedures. Managers need to check in with all employees to understand what challenges they may be facing, support they need, and overall well-being. They can use this time to update the employee on any changes in vision, team structure, and reinforce the employee’s value as a contributor to the team and company.
5. Create a formal channel for employees to bring concerns that need to be addressed. There will be questions for all employees returning. Provide an open-door policy to hear questions and concerns. Consider setting up a ‘bubble up’ portal on an intranet. Frequent and transparent communication should be a priority coming from the Founder focused on safety, engagement, support, and listening.
Returning to work means Founders need to create and maintain a safe work environment. This means setting up safety procedures and precautions, redesigning the work space, and making sure employees are aware of any new rules concerning hygiene and disease prevention.
Workplace Prep Checklist
- Make a set of ‘no personal contact’ rules
- Encourage ‘no item sharing’ when possible
- Reorganize your floor plan
- Get rid of common ‘gathering’ areas
- Close breakroom hangouts
- Create prominent hand sanitizing stations complete with cleaning supplies
- Post communal equipment cleaning rules with cleaning supplies at each location
- Create appropriate face mask rules
- Limit the number of people in a closed room
- Break the 9:00 to 5:00 and create staggered work day shifts and/or retain remote workdays