Category All, Best Practices Back to Work after COVID-19: How to Ease Your Employees’ Return to Work Follow these steps to ensure your employees come back to work feeling safe and calm after COVID-19 outbreak. May 22, 2020 By Sara Ana Cemazar Many employees will soon come back to work after COVID-19 pandemic. After months of standstill, life is gradually going back to new and adjusted “normal”. Now more than ever, employers need to provide support and empathy to their employees. In this article, you will find specific instructions on how to ease your employees return to the workplace. 📘 Before we start, get these COVID-19 templates to keep your employees safe and productive. COVID-19 Aftermath: How Workplaces Are Disrupted It is obvious that COVID–19 has disrupted the way we work. However, businesses are continuing their practice with safety measures in place. As the outcome and duration of pandemic is still unknown, employers must adapt their policies to accommodate various possible scenarios. COVID-19 outbreak has changed workplaces in many ways. Employees in many industries had to start working with new safety measures, wearing protective equipment and upholding to social distancing measures. On the other hand, many employees had to physically stop coming to the workplace. In the US alone, the percentage of full-time employees working from home increased from 33% to 61%. According to predictions from several organizations, many employees will have to continue working remotely at least some of the time. The nature of pandemic is unfamiliar, but experts forecast the period of several pandemic waves. It is expected that strong safety measures such as working from home will be repeatedly implemented during these times. As your employees are slowly coming back to work, you need to ensure they have the means to work in various situations you will not be able to control. By following these steps, you will also naturally enable your employees’ success. In other words, you will support your employees to do their best work and maintain high levels of productivity and engagement. Ensure Your Employees’ Safety When They Get Back to Work First and foremost, it is crucial that you and your employees know the safety measures they need to uphold. If your business operates in the EU, here is extensive EU guidance for going back to the workplace. Also, if your company is US-based, there are industry-specific directions you can follow to ensure safe return to work. The safety guidelines entail information on how to approach your employees’ worries about going back to work, but also advice on how to ensure social distancing and safety for your employees and customers. For example, we see many companies separating their employees in several teams that come to work on different days of the week, ensuring social distancing measures. 📘 Take a look how some of most internationally recognized companies took care of their employees during COVID-19. 8 Steps to Ease Your Employees’ Return to Work There are several steps you can follow to provide a smooth return to work to your employees. As we already emphasized, your employees’ safety comes first and you must regularly remind your employees to uphold the safety measures. On the other hand, employers have to raise the bar when it comes to empathy and mental health of their employees. The danger COVID-19 poses is not only to your employees physical, but also to their mental health, and you must take this into account to minimize the effect it could have on your employees’ productivity and absenteeism. Follow these steps to ensure your employees come back to work feeling safe and calm. 1. Plan for business continuity Before coming back to work – you have to make sure your company stays in business. The fact that 48% of business owners do not have a business continuity plan in place is worrying, because it is crucial to safeguard your business. Developing a business continuity plan includes performing a business impact analysis, determining new service protocols, communicating the changes to your customers and more. You need to consult managers from vital departments in your company to see how their units might be affected by future operational changes. It would be particularly beneficial to consult your HR Business Partner on how to use your company’s HR resources for enabling smooth business continuity in the changed environment. 2. Check in with your employees regularly You need to listen to your employees’ worries and needs in order to ease their return to work. Coming back to work might make some employees worried for their safety. Furthermore, you need to regularly check your employees’ pulse to detect possible problems, such as high stress levels stemming from changed work environment or your employees’ personal situations. The easiest way to check your employees’ current state of mind is to send automated surveys. With SurveyRocks, you can easily send your employees’ surveys and analyze the results to make data-driven business decisions. 📘 Also, check out these COVID-19 related surveys you can send to your employees and the essential questions every employee should be asked. 3. Ensure easy remote work experience As we explained earlier, going back to work does not necessarily mean that employees will not have to switch to remote work again. At last, remote work was becoming increasingly popular even before COVID-19 crisis because of its many benefits. However, switching to remote work has not been easy to employees who are used to the office atmosphere. Since the possibility of working remote during long periods of time in the next few years is very high, you need to minimize the negative consequences it might have on your employees’ productivity. In other words, you must accommodate your employees’ needs for maintaining the same work habits and performance while working remote. For example, 20% of employees say their biggest struggle when working remote are communication and collaboration. Therefore, you need to make it possible for your employees to collaborate and communicate efficiently whether they are in the office or working remote. 4. Facilitate seamless communication One thing that has probably changed the most during the COVID-19 outbreak is the way we communicate. Entire communication has moved online – with better or poorer results. This is why you need to create a workplace communication plan for this transitional and uncertain period in your employees’ work lives. When coming back to work, your employees will be able to communicate in person, and this is something they probably missed during remote work. However, you have to facilitate easy communication channels for working both in the office and remote, as employees will probably have to switch to working remote again. Furthermore, in case of further pandemic waves and stricter safety measures, you will need to communicate updated company policies. In order to ensure that your employees read the updates you send them, you must adapt the messages you send. The art of communicating with employees comes down to balancing the amount and quality of content you send to your employees. Therefore, implement an employee communications software such as Nurture that allows you to tailor your messages and segment your audience. That way, you will make your communication more efficient. 📘 Check out these email templates you can use to keep your workplace informed during COVID-19. 5. Provide efficient collaboration solution We already mentioned how collaboration is one of the most common struggles when working remote. Now that your employees are coming back to work, enabling them to collaborate efficiently when in and outside of office is crucial. It will ensure that your employees’ joint projects run undisturbedly no matter where your employees work from. It is important for your employees to know their coworkers’ progress and what is expected to be their own contribution to a certain project. That is why project management solutions like BoardFlo are increasingly popular, and can be used in various situations like onboarding, long-term career planning, additional resources or knowledge-sharing. 6. Simplify giving feedback As your employees come back to work, their responsibilities and on-going projects might need to be modified. Therefore, your employees need to know they are doing a good job! These positive feedback examples can help you boost your employees morale and encourage your employees’ good work. After all, your employees want it – 65% say that they want more feedback to get a better sense of their performance. Practicing peer-to-peer feedback continuously has multiple benefits for your business and employees alike. After all, time of once-per-year performance reviews as the only source of feedback is long gone. Therefore, make sure you check out how implementing a feedback platform has driven this company’s success. Also, check out our feedback platform FeedBck and implement the best feedback practices in your company. 7. Take care of your employees’ wellbeing If there ever was a time to put emphasis on your employees’ wellbeing – it is now. Besides the obvious consideration for your employees’ physical health during COVID-19, you must prevent and address your employees’ mental health issues. Psychologists are warning that quarantine can spark increase in diseases such as depression or even PTSD. Coming back to work might cause worry for some of your employees, so you need to communicate that your company ensures the highest safety standards. Furthermore, by checking in regularly with employee surveys, you can detect if your employees’ stress levels are higher than usual and find ways to minimize them. What we are seeing across the business world now is a call for empathy towards employees. Listening and showing your employees how to take care of their mental health will also prevent issues traditionally related to poor employee wellbeing such as increased healthcare costs and absenteeism. 8. Recognize and reward your employees work Now more than ever, your employees need to be encouraged to continue their good work and ensured that they are important members of your team. Lack of recognition is one of the main reasons employees feel unsatisfied with their current job, which leads to lower productivity and engagement levels. As going remote was an unusual change in your employees’ lives, so is coming back to work. Employee appreciation has enormous impact on your business results. Furthermore, employee incentives such as a simple “Thank you” can transform your whole company culture and make your company a productive place where your employees will thrive. 📘 Learn how to build a successful employee recognition program in your company. How Will You Ensure Positive Back to Work Experience to Your Employees? As we discussed, workplaces are disrupted by COVID-19, but employees are coming back to work. However, ensuring positive back to work experience for your entire workforce is a comprehensive task. Semos Cloud offers a suite of employee experience solutions to our customers. During these unprecedented times, we are keeping up with back to work trends to provide best materials and ideas to our customers. We want their employees to feel safe, healthy and productive when they get back to work. Check out our products and schedule a demo to see how you can help your employees get back to work.