Streetwise: Creating a Return to Work Plan

June 5, 2020

From our friends at Eure Consulting:

If you are planning to bring your employees back to the office sometime soon, this blog is for you.

Returning to working in the office right now is still a very sensitive subject. Many employees are extremely anxious about working next to others all day long. Just last week a survey of nearly 1,500 workers by employee recognition and engagement firm O.C. Tanner showed that 85% of workers think that it is too early to return to the office.

This means that the majority of your employees are probably feeling the same way. So how can you as the owner or CEO balance your responsibility to keep the company running and your responsibility to keep your employees safe? It is certainly a fine line to walk. Following are a few ideas that will help ensure the transition back to work is as comfortable as possible for your employees.

The first piece of advice is to ask for volunteers. Some workers will be ready to get back to the office. A lot of employees thrive off of interacting with their co-workers and are eager to return to that collaborative environment. Also, some employees are naturally not as worried about potential exposure, due to age, health or other circumstances. Asking for volunteers first helps give those that are not ready to reenter the workplace more time to get accustomed to going out in public. It also helps to show them the steps you are taking as a company to ensure your employees safety are actually working.

Next, you might work to create alternating schedules. You can alternate the days that employees come in, or even just alternate the hours. The goal of this being to keep the number of employees actually in the building at once low, which helps to lower the risk of spread. This approach has the added benefit of easing people back into a more traditional schedule. Slowly getting them used to commuting and working a full day again.

Another idea is to hold return to work trainings. Sort of like an orientation, these sessions are designed to train employees on the new protocols your company has put in place. Give them all the information they need to know about hand washing, masks, common area use, bathroom schedules, etc. Make sure they know all the new rules and also know who to go to if they have a question.

Most importantly, you should be sure to get your employees input. Nothing will make employees feel safer than knowing they had a hand in helping to develop the return to work safety protocols. Chances are you will see some extremes, employees who aren’t even worried about wearing masks to those that want all surfaces wiped down every 15 minutes on the minute. You will never be able to please every single employee, but the only way to know what they are really feeling and thinking is to ask. Perhaps you’ll learn that they aren’t as worried about using the same bathroom as someone else, but are adamant about having a door to close for their office. Or maybe they aren’t worried about the number of people in the building, but how many people per room there are. Gathering their input and insight will help you make the most effective plan and allay the most fears. It still won’t be perfect, but you’ll get a heck of a lot closer than if you just made it yourself.

The bottom line is that, just like everything we’ve faced over the past couple months, this is a new challenge facing businesses and their employees. As the leader, you have to do everything in your power to make sure your employees are safe, so make sure you put the time and energy necessary into getting your return to work procedures right.