After months of quarantine, returning to the workplace probably feels like a love-hate relationship right now for many people. After all, COVID-19 was certainly a major disruption that shook society both personally and professionally. And with millions falling victim to the infectious virus, it is no wonder why people, as eager as they are to get back to ordinary life, are wary about returning back to work as more States give the green light to reopen.
Now, even though re-entry anxiety is at an all-time high, you are not doomed as a business if your employees are pushing back due to health fears. By implementing new actionable and emotion-driven strategies, you can help ease them back into work confidently and feel safe as they head into the new post-pandemic norm. Since these alterations are easier said than done, here are some ideal ways to support your employees on their uneasy journey in returning back to work again.
1. Update Your Workplace, and Let Your Employees Know About It
If there is one thing we’ve learned, some space modifications are in order upon reopening. This means you need to nail down loose ends in your workspace and optimize it to be as “pandemic friendly” as you can. Some things you can do include updating sanitization procedures, cleaning out the air vents, adding no-touch technologies, temperature checks, visual reminders to wash hands and think about retrofitting your current space by adding office divider panels and consider reconfiguring the space to promote better separation.
Though these are all great, make sure you send out a communication email to your employees, so they know what you did and see you are prioritizing their health. Trust is a significant factor in re-entering the workspace.
2. Have Weekly One-on-One Check-Ins
If you run a small business or even a medium-sized one, then think about carving out some time once a week in the first few months of employee re-introduction to sit down and talk with each employee one-on-one. Ask them how they are feeling and allow them to be open with you about what they like, dislike, and areas they think you can improve on. Doing this process makes employees feel heard and valued, and you gain insider information on health/safety areas you might have overlooked.
Tip: If you run a larger business, try bi-weekly meetings or skip-level group ones.
3. Remind Employees of their Legal Rights
When you are transparent to your team about their rights and ensuring that they understand them, this will ease their fears because they will be reminded that they have a say if they see something being manipulated. Give them copies of the OSH Act, which states that employees can refuse to work if they have reason to believe they are in danger or feel threatened in any way. If they see this legalese documentation, it is one step closer to making them feel more secured and having a sense of respectful control.
4. Show Gratitude
This one might be a given on any account, but it is exceptionally dire during a pandemic. In a nutshell, trust can be increased when employees feel appreciated and valued, especially when they are risking their health to come work for you. By recognizing that they returned to work to support the business during times of uncertainty is key to making them feel more relaxed and less anxious. This, in conjunction with providing them resources to optimize their feelings of safety and comfortability, are all ways to show you respect them and that they matter to you.
Conclusion – Little Changes Go A Long Way
Even though there is still no vaccine available yet, you and I both know that the show must go on in terms of business. And with that reality means that your employees have to start transitioning back to their typical duties after months of being away. But don’t reopen with the mindset that everyone feels safe jumping back into the game. Society has shifted as a whole, and what was once standard operations might not work as well anymore in making employees feel comfortable.
With that being said, do your due diligence and give them an environment that they can feel secured heading back to. By taking some time to make little changes, such as mentioned above, they can collectively make a big difference in helping your employees feel less anxious and more excited to return to the workplace. In the end, your efforts will not only help them feel safe, but will build a stronger company culture overall, and that is something that will carry on long after this pandemic is over.
Download our Return to Work Playbook here.