As government-mandated COVID-19 restrictions are relaxing, some offices are opening back up. But can office-life ever look like it did pre-pandemic? While at least one corporation is allowing workers to never return to the office, most employers will be choosing to bring some or all workers back. Business leaders like myself have to carefully and thoughtfully plan and execute guidelines and begin to ideate around team expansion amid expectations of heightened health screening and social-distancing. It’s important to keep employees safe, engaged, happy, and productive as we navigate this pandemic and begin to think long-term business growth once again.
Keep up momentum as you phase back into an office setting
Once it’s allowed by your local government, begin by returning employees in phases. The reason our team works so well remotely is because we all know each other well: in-office time will always be important and you or your operations team need to carefully consider on what this will look like. Create specific guidelines to help employees comfortably adjust to the new office setting and encourage them to advocate for their own needs. Check-in more often with your employees and ensure that the work they’re doing feels valued. Acknowledge the stress surrounding the challenges they’re dealing with and the uneasiness they may be experiencing about returning to the office.
Facilitate an environment of trust and transparency
Most of us want to return to a usual way of life, including a typical day at the office. But, there are still some that might not feel safe being outside or in close quarters with co-workers even if you can figure out how to space workers six feet apart. Some employees may have small children or function as caretakers for elderly parents and can’t take the risk of getting infected. Encourage your employees to communicate openly about any concerns or limitations they may be experiencing. If someone isn’t comfortable or able to be in the office, listen and figure out how to best accommodate them.
Put thought into hiring practices
There are benefits to working remotely, but there are nuances to face-to-face interactions that cannot be captured on the telephone or Zoom. It might be necessary to develop new ways to interview potential candidates to keep from putting them or current staff at risk. Enhance the pre-screening process with more remote communications. Hold social distancing interviews after-hours when employees have gone home. Ensure a seamless process that will provide candidates with a fair shot of being employed while also keeping them and your team safe.
As leaders and managers, we can rise to the challenge to protect our workforce while ensuring that our employees feel safe, heard, motivated, and valued. To me, and my team, it’s important to work towards an in-person work environment and although it won’t get there overnight, we collectively will work towards a day where we can responsibly work alongside each other at the office.
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