A lot of people are returning to work in person after COVID-19. Some businesses never closed, while others have been virtual for over a year.
For some, it’s a time of celebration. For others, it’s a time of anxiety and fear of the unknown. Stores and businesses are opening in-person then going virtual just as quickly.
As a leader, it can be challenging to navigate through this haze of chaos and lead your employees effectively.
Most importantly, how do you make sure your employees feel safe in the workplace?
If you’re returning to work in person, here are five things you should consider.
Establish safety policies to promote health & mutual respect between employees.
First and foremost, it’s essential to set clear guidelines on your business’s safety policies to ensure that your employees feel safe and respected when returning to work after COVID-19.
Provide your employees with hand sanitizer, sanitation wipes, and keep the soap stocked in the bathrooms. You can even space the desks out, so employees feel safe in their own space. Refer to the CDC workplace safety guidelines for recommended safety protocols.
Another thing to consider including in your safety policies is what you are going to do in meetings. Will you hold in-person meetings or virtual meetings? If they’re in person, you should establish whether or not you are going to wear masks.
Several businesses have implemented a hybrid work schedule to make employees feel safe while providing in-person interaction for team members to feel connected.
Mask policies are a touchy subject, so be sure to address your team with sympathy. Whoever wants to wear a mask can but go a step further. If someone feels uncomfortable, give them the opportunity to attend the meeting virtually.
As a leader in your business, lead by example. Provide masks for your employees if they don’t have one. Wear one in your meetings.
In this instance, it’s about making sure that your team feels safe and respected when working in person. Implementing a selfless culture will encourage your team to grow closer together and establish deeper relationships based on trust and respect.
Your workplace culture, productivity, and efficiency can transform when your team learns to trust each other.
Make your team a priority when you create a positive and safe workplace culture and environment.
Communicate your expectations with your team.
Clear communication is the key to success.
Returning to the office is a huge transition. It can be filled with anxiety. One thing you can do to ease your employees’ anticipation of working in the office again is to communicate clearly.
Even though employees have been in the office before, they may have forgotten a few company policies. It’s best to communicate expectations face-to-face, so employees can ask questions and engage in the conversation.
Before your team returns to work, you can send an email with old or updated company policies. Whether they’ve changed or stayed the same, it will refresh your employees’ memory and help them prepare adequately. Then create time for employees to ask questions when they come into the office.
The thing to remember is to treat your employees with grace. Everyone makes mistakes. The first couple of weeks in the office may have their hiccups, but that’s okay.
Extend grace to your employees and kindly remind them of the company policies and safety guidelines. This will set their minds at ease and help them adjust to returning to work in person.
Your employees will have rusty soft skills.
Soft skills are work skills that are not specific to your industry. It includes how an employee interacts with their team, manages their workload, and problem solves or works under pressure.
Working virtually may have affected these skills for better or for worse. One of the biggest hindrances could be teamwork.
For the past year, your team has only interacted virtually with one another instead of working in person. Virtual interactions only allow people to communicate with their facial expressions and hands. Body language is limited. When working in person, your team will need to readjust to face-to-face communication which can be mentally taxing at first.
One way to jumpstart this adjustment is to implement team-building activities throughout the week. This will allow your team to take a break from work and interact with one another.
Help your new employees adjust.
Team-building exercises are also a great way for your new employees to get to know the team.
If you hired new team members during the pandemic, they might have only ever interacted with their coworkers over Zoom, which can feel alienating when returning to work after COVID-19.. Be sure to be extra mindful of them as they adjust to working in person.
Working in person involves a whole other set of rules, including work attire, work etiquette, and more.
Even if your new employee has been with your company for several months, in some ways, working in person may seem like their first day at work. When they come into the office for the first time, have someone show them around the building. Make sure that your employees have time to reconnect with one another when returning to work after COVID-19.
While you don’t want to treat your new employees as if it is their first day, you want to make sure they feel comfortable working in person.
Address mental health.
2020 had many hardships. You never know what a team member has experienced in the past year. Maybe someone has lost a family member, or they are simply overwhelmed with everything that has happened. It’s important to keep this in mind when preparing to come back to work in person.
One of the ways you can support your team when they return to work after COVID-19 is by creating a positive workplace culture. You can cultivate a positive culture by extending grace toward your team, communicating your sympathy, and encouraging them.
If a team member is particularly struggling, create time and space for them to take a mental health day. Encourage them to reach out to someone to get help or simply listen to them. When you give your team the support they need to seek help, your work culture will thank you for it.
CCA is Your Guide During Good and Difficult Times
One of the ways to care for your team is to partner with Corporate Chaplains of America.
Our team is dedicated to you and your team. Your chaplain is a trusted confidant that your team can go to in good and difficult times which includes returning to work after COVID-19.
As you navigate through safety guidelines, business communications, and helping your team feel empowered and comfortable, our team will take care of yours.
Our chaplains are available 24/7 for you and your team. When your employees have someone to talk to, it can make a difficult transition seem a little easier.
Contact Corporate Chaplains of America today to learn how to support your team as you transition back to work in person.