The COVID-19 pandemic of 2020 shook the world, leaving virtually no stone unturned. Even more, the industry closures and safety mandates that followed the outbreak have indelibly shaped the fabric of daily living. Many office environments responded by transitioning their employees to working from home, blurring the lines between work and home for those unaccustomed to remote work.
Several months later, some businesses are fortunate enough to operate in parts of the world that have managed to quell the outbreak. As these companies actively prepare to transition employees back to the office by 2021, it is essential to re-envision their company culture in a way that makes workers feel safe, included, and welcomed in this new chapter of work life. From customized blank t-shirts to team gatherings, keep reading to discover a few ways to make your employees feel welcomed as they return to the office.
Sending a welcome email to members of your organization before they return serves two purposes. One, it is a chance to reestablish rapport with employees, many of whom may have felt a social void and lack of connection when working from home. Two, it is a functional opportunity to brief everyone on pertinent safety and health policies that apply moving forward.
Set a tone that is warm and friendly, yet clearly answer all potential questions. Are employees now required to wear PPE, such as masks and gloves, while inside the building? Have desks been rearranged to limit the number of people allowed per room? How often will office spaces be sanitized? Is there any required training on new protocols? What are the procedures if an employee feels ill? Include all these guidelines in your email.
The COVID-19 pandemic in the U.S. led to the creation of policies, such as the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA), the FMLA Leave Expansion and Emergency Paid Sick Leave Policy, and other temporary provisions designed to help those impacted by the pandemic. This is a great segue point to encourage employees to review their benefits packages – along with any changes – with HR.
Let employees feel confident in your commitment to keeping all office spaces as clean as possible by making cleaning supplies, such as disinfecting wipes, sprays, and hand sanitizers, available in abundance. If your company requires workers to wear PPE, make these items readily available at designated, secured locations throughout the workplace.
The “new normal” we currently live in feels anything but normal. Employees may be struggling emotionally as a result of illness, death, and general anxiety about the future. Those with families may feel burnt out after a months-long trifecta of working from home, caring for family members, and teaching children remotely. Ensure health-oriented resources, such as wellness seminars, meditation courses, and mental health counseling, are available to all employees.
Guidance from entities like the CDC, as well as new COVID-19 transmission data, can change industry protocols in an instant. Communicating updates on workplace protocols as soon as they happen lets employees know their health and wellbeing are at the forefront. While email is a great tool for sharing new guidelines, you should convey a uniform, organization-wide message of care by also updating any bulletin boards and signs throughout the office space. Read here for some tips on how to improve company culture and communication.
Create Your Account Today
Not all employees feel comfortable transitioning back to the office in the midst of a pandemic, and any bouts of illness experienced by peers may prompt them to take days away from the office. Some employees, such as those who are immunocompromised (or live with family members who are), may not wish to return to a physical workplace at all.
Implement a flexible work from home policy that allows any employee who chooses to work from home, whether due to illness or fear of illness, to do so discreetly and without retribution from coworkers or management. Be as sensitive and as accommodating as possible to new scheduling needs that have arisen from any recent responsibilities employees have undertaken, such as caring for relatives or children.
Many teams may feel disconnected and socially isolated after working from home and adhering to stay-at-home mandates for months on end. A dedicated welcome back gathering, whether a socially distanced picnic or a virtual video call, gives employees an invaluable platform for checking in with each other, sharing experiences, and setting team goals for the future.
Company swag is a surefire way to boost employee morale and reconnect workers to company culture. What better way to welcome employees than by offering some fun gifts on their first day back? Order some popular items, like blank T-shirts, and wholesale zip up hoodies, and then customize them with your company logo.
The uncertainty of the future, combined with an economy reeling from a pandemic, makes it essential for organizations to display internal openness and company culture as they relax their remote work mandates.
While team collaboration and engagement are crucial to the work of many departments, uncontrolled factors like illness now have ramifications for not only one individual, but potentially an entire workplace. Employee morale and loyalty are thus more intricately intertwined than ever with a company’s bottom line. After all, a company ceases to exist without its workforce. It is during these reimagined organizational “growing pains” that managers and directors should lead with empathy, actively listening and responding to employees’ concerns.
Successful workplaces are ultimately dynamic, shifting both people and resources in ways that make the most sense for a particular point in time. Companies must prepare for a new era of operating – whether that means staggered schedules or a blend of in-person and remote work – as well as one subject to change based on individual needs, industry trends, and government guidance.
About the Guest Author: Brenda Kimble is a content coordinator for The Adair Group.