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return to work employee support tips

Since March, we have written a lot about how the pandemic and coronavirus have lead to changes in the way businesses handle recruiting, downsizing and employee and labor relations. We have also discussed how outplacement services help displaced workers, virtually or otherwise. But what about the employees who are returning to work as companies reopen for business?

Why Do Your Employees Need Your Support as They Return to Work?

Whether you employ essential workers on the front lines during the COVID-19 outbreak, a team of remote employees, furloughed workers or some combination of  these, it is important that your people feel supported. According to a recent Forbes article on this subject, employees often are exposed to situations in their personal lives that can result in a great deal of stress. That can reduce employee engagement when they return to work. The article suggests managers keep in mind things like:

  • Members of your workforce most likely know someone affected by illness, furloughs and layoffs.
  • Some of your employees could be dealing with chronic diseases or mental health issues themselves.
  • Your team may be impacted by other challenges besides health issues, such as childcare disruption now that schools and daycare centers are closed.

Make the Reopen-for-Business Transition Feel Positive and Secure for Workers

Nothing could have prepared us fully for the coronavirus pandemic that has swept the nation in the last three months. It has been a challenging time for employers and employees alike. As states begin to ease restrictions, more and more remote and furloughed employees are returning to their places of work. Employers should take steps to support their people, in order to make the transition as smooth and productive as possible. Not only will this benefit your employees’ well-being, it can help with your long-term business success too.

1. Make Sure Employees Feel Valued and Supported as They Return to Work

News stories about workers feeling unsafe or left to fend for themselves against the virus and related economic difficulties abound. No doubt, your employees have heard at least a few by now. When they return to work, if they don’t feel safe and respected, they won’t be perform optimally—and that can hit your bottom line at a time when you really can’t afford it.

Offering support lets employees know they matter to your organization, and that you see them as people first, not just cogs in the wheel. This goes for remote workers as well as those about to return on-site. Forbes suggests some useful ways employers can offer ongoing support to their workforces through the COVID-19 outbreak:

  • Share information on public resources available for dealing with pandemic stress, grief and health issues.
  • Encourage your employees to use PTO or sick leave if it is needed.
  • Be flexible: if you can, let employees rearrange their schedules so that they can have time to help children with home schooling, take care of elderly parents, etc.
  • Don’t forget to do friendly check-ins with your team, focusing on encouragement and support, rather than only work-related matters.

2. Communication Is Key, and That Includes Listening to Your Team

Opening up lines of communication to effectively and efficiently conduct business is important as workforces return to work. Employers should make a point to ask your team members if they have any concerns rather than wait for them to bring them up. Employees might not feel comfortable approaching their bosses on their own right now and stay quiet. This can create problems later on that can slow down your plans to get back up to speed. Listen to their concerns, and be honest with them—even if you can’t tell them much at the moment. This is how you build trust.

An important piece of employee communications as you re-open or ramp back up, is providing clear safety information to your managers and workforce. The National Safety Council (NSC) provides a comprehensive guide for 10 universal actions employers must take to keep workers safe during the COVID-19 pandemic.

As you communicate with your employees as you reopen for business, remember that HIPAA and ADA privacy rules still apply even during a coronavirus outbreak, so be aware of what you share about individuals’ health information. Keep up on your OSHA COVID-19 guidelines and requirements as well.

3. Share and Foster a Growth Mindset

Challenges abound for many companies as we move forward and get back to work, and embracing them as opportunities for growth can be an incredible motivator for employees. According to a recent Inc. article, sharing and fostering a clear growth mindset as you ramp back up or restructure your organization is key to team-building. Share your ideas about innovation, improved customer support and other ways you plan to evolve with your workforce, and let them feel a part of it. A positive set of goals can help reassure your people returning to work right now.  

Fostering a growth mindset in your returning workforce can also give them a sense of purpose. While it is true during normal times, Inc. contends that during today’s pandemic situation, focusing your team on the higher purpose of their work rather than their personal circumstances can help them find satisfaction and motivation in their jobs during uncertain times. Let them know that what they do directly and positively impacts others and contributes to the company’s success. Share the organization’s long-term vision. 

4. Be Aware of Increased Stress on Employees Who Remain After Downsizing

Your returning employees are vital. They are also well aware of any coworker layoffs that have happened and are watching how you handle all this. While a reduction in force obviously impacts the employees who are let go, it also affects those who are not. Witnessing downsizing happening all around them can make them anxious and emotional. If they have concerns about how much their jobs will change and how they will be managed as they return to work, seeing that those who were treated respectfully can help alleviate their apprehensions. Make sure you organization’s actions take into account all of these factors as you move forward.

Support The People Vital to Your Company’s Success

Even if your Human Resources team is spread thin during the pandemic, or if your organization has never had an HR department to begin with, you can still have access to effective and practical employment services. The experienced consultants at RAI Resources can help your business with a wide array of HR challenges. We pride ourselves on crafting custom human resources solutions for each client, based on their objectives and budgets. Contact us today to discuss your needs. We’re here to help.