4 tips to prepare for the return of your employees
What will working in the 'social distance economy' look like in practice? How do you safely interact with your colleagues and operate in your new social distanced workspaces? The practical guidelines will look different between sectors. One thing is for sure: there is no returning to the old way of working and we must embrace ‘the new normal’.
Once organisations have additional protocols approved by the government and are allowed to reopen, all employees will have to re-familiarise themselves with the organisation in its new form: with stricter rules, new work processes and perhaps even adjusted business objectives. Employees will have to be onboarded again, as it were. But instead of onboarding, this will be re-boarding.
This means organisations will have to set up a reboarding strategy: a plan for a safe return to work of employees, ensuring that they are fully informed about and aware of the new guidelines. Below, we are providing four suggestions on how to reboard employees as safely and easily as possible.
1. Communicate new protocols and work instructions
Keeping a distance is quite difficult in a workplace where your desk is set up close to your colleagues and you work together all day.
What does this mean for your workplace? What other hygiene and safety measures have been put in place within your organisation? In the reboarding plan, you have to clearly communicate to your employees what the new protocols and work instructions are, how they should be complied with and how they are monitored, so that employees can return to work fully informed. This can, for example, take the form of a checklist for employees:
|Before coming to work|
|Are you ill, do you have a cold or flu-like symptoms, or does this apply to someone in your household? Then don’t come to work!|
|For a better distribution of work, your schedule may have been adjusted. Check your new working hours in advance.|
|The commute to work|
|Use public transport as little as possible. Travel to work by bike (this is good for your health and fitness as well).|
|Disinfect your hands before entering.|
|Wear gloves and/or a mask when recommended.|
|Take the stairs instead of the lift to allow for social distance (it is also a good way to work on your fitness).|
|Keep a physical distance of 1.5 m (= two arms’ length). This may have resulted in a change in the layout of the work floor.|
|Don’t shake hands (try an air high five, Namaste greeting or the Tibetan tongue greeting).|
|Wash your hands regularly (too often is better than not often enough. And in any case before eating, after visiting the toilet, etc.).|
|Sharing is caring, but not right now... Don’t share pens, phones, etc.|
|The restaurant / company canteen is closed. Bring your own lunch.|
|When in doubt whether or not you can do something, contact HR.|
Ensure that all employees are provided with all the latest information in advance, and that government regulations are followed. This can be done via, for example, Intranet or an online reboarding tool. Please note that these measures may vary at company or departmental level and adjust your reboarding plan per location or department if necessary.
2. Prioritise the work atmosphere and culture
The COVID-19 outbreak will undoubtedly have an effect on the corporate culture, including the mission, vision and values of your organisation and the way employees interact with each other. Include the new social and cultural standards within your organisation in the reboarding plan and share them with your employees. Things to think of:
- New ways of greeting each other: We greet each other by waving at each other from a distance of 1.5 m, so no physical contact.
- Appointments with customers: We schedule appointments with customers online via video chat and/or telephone where possible. If, in exceptional circumstances, you do need to meet up with a customer in person, discuss the new “rules of the game” prior to the appointment, such as no shaking of hands and no keeping the door open for the other person.
- New conferencing methods: Meetings are held in such a way that attendants can sit 1.5 m apart.
- Drinks and team events: During social and team events, we keep our distance and everyone gets their own drinks.
The company culture is what makes your organisation unique and why employees want to work for you. Make culture a priority during the reboarding process to help employees get to grips with the new reality.
3. Adjust expectations
Employees want clarity about what is expected of them in these turbulent times. In addition, as a result of the crisis, the priorities or objectives in your business strategy may have shifted or changed. Include in your reboarding plan what the new expectations are regarding the output of your employees.
- Business objectives: If priorities have shifted in the business strategy as a result of the crisis, indicate why and in what way this affects the work, KPIs or planned assignments of your employees.
- Work processes: Communicate if and which work processes have changed.
- Productivity & output: Indicate what you as an organisation expect of your employees in terms of productivity and output, for example when an employee who has children works both at the office and from home.
Make sure you facilitate your employees to be and remain productive at work by setting clear, realistic goals and communicating expectations. Whether it’s from home or in the workplace in its new form.
4. Stay connected
Keep a physical distance, but stay socially connected with your employees. The COVID-19 pandemic affects everyone, both privately and at work. It raises a lot of questions. Work can be lonely, without all those colleagues around you.
Therefore, include in the reboarding plan how you keep your employees involved, how you stay connected as a group and who employees can turn to when they have questions, in order to start work successfully and stay as productive as possible. Things to think of:
- Keep everyone informed: Communicate how often and via which channel you will update your employees in these uncertain times, for example via an online communication tool.
- Stay positive: Show your appreciation by, for example, having a ‘Welcome back hamper’ ready for your employees on their new first working day. We’ll get through this together!
- Check-in: As a manager, check in regularly with your employees. Especially in situations where different departments have different working methods, and adjust the reboarding plan per department if necessary.
- Keep sharing knowledge: Schedule (remote) knowledge sessions and (online) coffee dates to keep in contact.
- Buddy system: Create a buddy system to keep an eye on and motivate each other.
- Well-being: Make it clear whom employees can turn to with mental and physical problems as a result of the crisis, such as sleeping problems or health complaints.
When employees are allowed to return to work will differ per country, region, industry and company. Work, however, will not be the same. As an organisation it is important to offer your employees support and clarity during these uncertain times of ‘social distancing’, by clearly communicating new protocols, sharing new social standards, adjusting expectations and staying connected with your employees.
Although government rules may change, tighten or relax at any time during this pandemic, a reboarding plan will give your employees positive guidance to take a first step towards the ‘new normal’.
Return to work safely using the reboarding app
Do you want to communicate your company’s new protocols in an accessible way, but don’t know how exactly? Our reboarding app supports organisations in providing employees with company-specific policy information and up-to-date government guidelines.
It allows you to measure and report on the progress of employees. This way, you can immediately demonstrate that your employees are and stay up to date with the full protocol.
Want to find out more about Appical’s reboarding app? Request a free demo!