As the weeks progress, we are likely going to see more organizations focus on creating concrete plans for returning to the workplace post-quarantine. Rearranging desks to be at least six feet apart and marking hallways to be one-way are simple actions many companies are taking in preparation. But what are you doing to help your employees transition back to on-site work?
Below are a few guidelines to help you lead your team through this transition.
The most significant thing you can do is be transparent with your team from the beginning. Are you considering an immediate return to work as soon as mandatory closures are lifted? Or are you planning on delaying your return until you can gauge the situation? Will only part of the workforce be returning to the office?
In general, give employees as much information as you are able. They likely have several concerns about returning to work, which could include questions such as:
- When do you anticipate re-opening the office?
- Who will be returning to the office? Note that employees might wonder why they were or weren’t chosen to return.
- Will you be taking their temperature or monitoring symptoms in any way?
- What happens if an employee tests positive or goes into the office exhibiting symptoms?
- Are you taking any additional steps to protect employees (such as increased cleaning or restricted visitors)?
Unless an organization’s opening plans coincide with school re-openings, many parents will struggle to secure childcare in time. Additionally, some employees might be juggling added responsibilities as they attempt to take care of elderly or at-risk family members.
For many employees, the flexibility to continue working from home when needed might be vital. Managers should strive to keep an open dialog with team members in order to stay aware of individual employees’ needs.
Personal Protective Equipment
Let your employees know ahead of time whether they will be required to wear personal protective equipment (PPE), such as masks and gloves. Some locations are requiring employers to provide PPE for their employees.
In addition to providing PPE, it could also be helpful to provide reminders on how to properly use these tools. For example, an organization could post guidelines on how often gloves should be changed.
Social Distancing in the Workplace
One of the biggest challenges for re-opening the workplace is maintaining social distancing guidelines. This will be a much easier process if employees are kept aware and properly informed of all social distancing measures being implemented. For example, let them know ahead of time whether some corridors will become one-way halls—and explain why. Let them know that hand sanitizer will be placed near all high-touch areas and that it will be helpful if everyone collectively agrees to use it. Additionally, remind them that not all of their coworkers will appreciate a desk-side chat in the current climate.
Let employees know how team meetings will be handled and if certain areas (such as break rooms) will be restricted. For workplaces that provide cafeterias, let employees know ahead of time what changes to expect.
Make Room for Fun
Even if your team follows social distancing guidelines perfectly, their overall health might still suffer from increased stress and poor mental health. While there have been countless headlines on the impact COVID-19 closures have had on businesses, one can’t forget that it has also had a deep impact on individuals.
Making time for fun activities might be just what the team needs. This could include a “cutest four-legged coworker” contest (the only contest where there are no losers), videoconferencing with those still at home using outrageous (but work-appropriate!) Zoom backgrounds (you can use any gif as a background), or just sharing picture of what kids home from school are getting up to.
For more tips on how to prepare for re-opening, check out our latest eBook, Re-Opening Your Workplace Post-Quarantine.