Over the last few months, many business owners have been planning for the much-anticipated return of their employees to the physical workplace. I’ve spoken with many of them who are optimistic yet cautious for this transition, and for good reason. In order to ensure a safe environment for all employees, it’s important that you tackle this transition in a meticulous manner, otherwise, you may jeopardise your operations as well as the health and wellbeing of your employees.
As you prepare for this inevitable transition, here are some recommendations for you to consider when preparing to welcome your employees back to work:
Prior to welcoming any employees back to your workplace, I encourage you to inform them of any new protocols and your expectations. In addition to any common COVID-19 protocols such as symptom reporting or contact tracing, be sure to also touch upon things such as start times, the use of common areas, etc. Your expectations will likely change depending on the size of your business. For example, a larger organisation may consider having their employees arrive and depart at staggered times so as to not congest common areas.
Another expectation that many businesses are implementing is a vaccine mandate. Should you choose this route, I encourage you to consider how you will accommodate employees with medical or religious exemptions to ensure their work environment is safe and conducive to their needs.
Consider your options
I encourage you to consider the flexibility of your operations prior to making any finite decisions or policies. You’ll need to think about how it could impact your operations if someone tests positive in the office. Additionally, instead of bringing all of your employees back at once, you may want to consider a gradual or hybrid model (25% fully in-person, 50% hybrid, 25% fully virtual). Again, the size of your workforce will help determine which route you take but taking a look at the different job functions in your business will also help you make this decision.
If you choose a hybrid model moving forward, I suggest looking at how your employees may benefit from each situation in order to ensure that they are being treated fairly and equitably. For example, you may want to factor in the commuting time for your in-person staff by providing them opportunities to leave early, whereas you may also want to provide your virtual staff with care packages of items they would otherwise receive at the office, including stationary items, coffee or snacks.
Bringing them back – logistics
In anticipation of their employees returning, some of my clients have even prepared “welcome back” events to keep things light and morale high as everyone transitions back to working at the office. You may want to consider hosting an Employee Appreciation Week or an upcoming holiday party where your employees can socialise and reconnect. This is also a great opportunity to introduce any new employees who may have started with your company virtually.
Prepare for the not-so-unexpected
While reuniting back at the office is cause for celebration, doing so prematurely or without the proper safety measures in place can bring us all back to square one. In the case of a fourth wave or future lockdown, you should have a business continuity plan ready to go if your staff needs to go back to working virtually. I recommend taking some time to speak with your employees to learn about how you can improve supporting them virtually. An anonymous employee survey could be an effective way to gather this pertinent information while ensuring your employees feel comfortable to be honest about their needs.
Are you ready to start welcoming your employees back in person? Need help navigating these tough times? The Alternative Board is here to help! Contact us today to benefit from one-on-one coaching sessions and peer advisory boards with like-minded business owners.
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