After over a year of working remotely during the coronavirus pandemic, it will soon be time for employees to begin returning to the office. Since many may feel that they finally found a way to integrate educating and raising their kids while fitting in work, they may not be ready to transition back. Whether your team members are ready to get back to the office or hesitant to do so, you need to address their work expectations. Talking about how your employees feel regarding returning to the office will help you understand how they think and feel about the new work dynamics. You can use what you find out to reduce stress and uncertainty while building trust and commitment to the company.
Here are some suggestions to manage employee expectations when reopening the office.
1. Stagger the Return to the Office
Create a staggered plan for employees to resume working onsite. For instance, think about which functions, types of work, and roles should return to the workplace first. Also, take into account the duration of the work, need for space, and design for safety. Additionally, consider which setups would maximize productivity, safety, and operating conditions at a reasonable cost. Plus, define the practices and policies for teams still working remotely, including working styles, norms, and technology.
Stay informed about the latest guidance on maintaining safety in the workplace. For instance, remain current on testing and sanitation plans for reentry and alter your policies accordingly. Also, rearrange the office to provide for appropriate distance and hygienic behaviors. This may include sectioned-off workspaces, Plexiglas barriers in the break room and conference rooms, and signs reminding everyone to practice social distancing. Additionally, update your HR policies, procedures, and programs to accommodate employees who have difficulty returning to the office due to family situations or fear of returning until they feel safe. Plus, create feedback channels to understand and discuss employee concerns. Further, create a communication plan to increase confidence and motivation in returning to the office.
3.Clarify Employee Objectives
Let each team member know what their main objectives are. When employees shifted to remote work, many took on tasks beyond their usual responsibilities. Once your team members return to the office, let them know exactly what they should be focusing on and accomplishing. Also, be specific about the measurements used to determine whether your expectations are met. Providing clarity increases efficiency and peace of mind during a time of uncertainty.
4. Emphasize Transparency, Communication and Empathy
Be as transparent as possible with your team. With changing work conditions and company goals, your employees need to know how they fit in. They want clarification on why the changes are being considered, why they are necessary, and what the anticipated outcomes are. Some employees may be worried or scared. Communicate openly, listen to understand and be empathetic to their fears. Work together to safely & comfortably transition employees back to the office.
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