Back in March, many businesses across the country had to abruptly shut their doors and switch to a remote work environment. While some offices and retail and restaurant units remain at least partially closed, many businesses have started to transition back to working in-person. People are going to have mixed feelings about returning to work. Many professionals are going stir crazy after being stuck inside for months, yet there is still a lot of anxiety regarding health and safety in the workplace. These tips can help business owners optimize the return back to the office.
Lead with Empathy
Working during a pandemic made leadership in all sectors think carefully about how they communicated with their teams as they worked from home. They had to be more patient and compassionate than ever before because they understood that their employees were dealing with an unprecedented amount of stress. They had concerns about their health and the health of their families, as well as the state of the economy. Meanwhile, many also had to adjust to working remotely for the first time. As companies transition back to work, managers should continue to lead with empathy. Employees will likely have a lot of anxiety as they start back up so communicate with them to understand where their mind is and what actions you can take to support them and make them feel more comfortable.
Develop a Strategy for Communication
Employees will likely have many questions about how the return to the office is going to work. On the one hand, you will want to have specific communication channels for employees to ask whatever questions they might have. On the other hand, you also want to be preemptive and communicate the plan for reopening to them as clearly as possible. Employees will want to know how you plan to address social distancing, what happens if they start to feel sick once they return, and what the new guidelines for safety and sanitation will be.
Encourage Social Engagement
Many employees feel cut off from their coworkers who they haven’t seen in person in months. It’s important to provide employees with opportunities to interact with their team members in a social setting so you can start to rebuild a sense of community in the workplace. At the same time, you also want to be mindful of social distancing. Most employees want to be able to socialize with their friends and colleagues again but they want to do in a way that is safe for everyone.
It has been a rough few months for professionals in almost all industries as teams have had to adjust to working remotely during a time of unprecedented stress and uncertainty. Yet, most are ready to get back to a normal work routine. As business owners gradually prepare to transition back, they can optimize the return to the business by acting with compassion, taking the time to understand what employees need to feel comfortable working in a public environment again, clearly communicating new policies and guidelines, and encouraging social engagement.
by Nancy Estep
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