Just as employers worldwide reintroduced in-person working, another wave of COVID required a pause, slowing the return, followed by the need for a new reintroduction of in-person working. Companies have worked diligently to adapt operations and practices to keep employees and customers safe during the reintroduction to in-person work. Safety continues to be key, but there is no one-size-fits-all approach for every business or organization to return employees to work successfully.
The first step in implementing an office return strategy requires a transitional period that allows for adjustment to the new dynamic, which will most likely include a mixture of remote and in-office work supported by the newly developed technology infrastructure. Best practices for a reintroduction plan also include ensuring that team members have the training and resources required to avoid struggles associated with returning to work. Workloads have changed, and often, new employees need to be added to ensure your business continuity and continued growth. In addition, businesses have been required to clarify company best practices regarding illnesses, emphasizing the need to stay home when unwell, without fear of negative repercussions. The goal is to develop a safe working environment as the business reintroduces in-person working in the “new normal.”
During the past two years, we have learned that change is constant and inevitable. Whether it comes as the result of a global pandemic, a merger, new company leadership, new technologies, a changing marketplace, employee turnover, or rebranding, we must be prepared for changes. In this case, the change is the reintroduction to in-person working. No one expected the wave of changes the world faced as remote working suddenly became the norm, nor the reaction when the call for a return to in-person working came.
The call to return to in-person work can seem entirely out of control for many team members. To a certain degree, it is, but with guidance, your company can present a reintroduction plan to help your employees thrive as they return to work. As a business leader, you already recognize that everyone responds to change differently. It was true when remote work was first required, and it is true now as a return to in-person work is inevitable. On top of those noticeable changes, the world has experienced advances in technology, a disruption in the way it does business and changes in its economy. Every organization faces challenges in improving business processes and remaining relevant while reintroducing employees to the workplace.
For some companies, reintroduction will be easy. For others, it will be more of a challenge. Fierce offers these reintroduction strategies to help your organization thrive through the return to in-person work and well into the future:
- Build Trust through Continuous Conversation
- Invite Collaboration through People-Focused Initiatives
- Encourage Feedback and Active Listening
Build Trust Through Continuous Conversation
Preparing your team for a return to the workplace environment requires an ongoing conversation. As you ensure your employees’ health, there will likely be numerous changes in how spaces are utilized and by whom, cleaning procedures, and new best practices for safety. At Fierce, we know the root of conversation means to “associate with,” and regular and effective communication through conversation can prevent confusion and promote understanding. It is important not to talk AT your team, but rather to them in a conversation with genuine two-way dialogue that allows for sharing (concerns, ideas, etc.). These conversations should be open, real, and honest, discussing the reintroduction plan in ways that help your team navigate the changes and, in turn, drive positive results.
This type of ongoing, open dialogue builds trust. In turn, that trust helps your team welcome the changes when returning to in-person work and makes them what to succeed. It enables teamwork and connection and is crucial because, at the end of the day, the conversation is the relationship. Think about it, when you are honest and authentic in your conversations, that’s what you will get in return. Your conversation equals your relationship. Your ongoing conversation throughout the reintroduction process will build trust within your team, grow relationships with your team, and help everyone manage the changes which come with returning to in-person work.
Invite Collaboration through People-Focused Initiatives
Just as a real, genuine conversation builds trust, people-focused initiatives invite collaboration among team members. Consider the changes your team has endured over the past two years, often working in isolation for days or weeks at a time. As a result, many companies suffered from decreased morale, diminished motivation, and dwindling employee engagement. As a part of an effective reintroduction plan, people-focused initiatives can instill a sense of normalcy, increase engagement, and encourage collaboration.
Keep in mind, consensus does not equal collaboration. Consensus is when everyone agrees in opinion or judgment within the team. Collaboration is people working together to create or produce; it doesn’t require everyone to agree. Collaboration invites inclusion; it allows team members to express themselves and feel valued. People-focused initiatives invite collaboration and build on trust not only during the reintroduction process but whenever changes come in your business.
Encourage Feedback and Active Listening
During the reintroduction plan, it is crucial to encourage feedback from team members. Whether questions or concerns, actively listening to employee feedback keeps the two-way dialogue open, enhances morale, and reassures employees as they return to in-person work. It shows your team members their voices are heard, and they are valued and respected members of the company. The goal is to give everyone the opportunity to return to in-house work and contribute in ways that make the “new normal” better. By asking for feedback and listening, everyone gains a sense of belonging and empowerment within the shared corporate culture where trust has been established through conversations and people-focused initiatives invite collaboration.