While there’s still a lot of speculation about how the workplace might change following coronavirus, many of us are still going to be headed back to the office in some capacity within the coming months. Collectively, we’ve been through a lot together, with some of us needing to adapt to a WFH life, others facing furloughs and the parents in our lives being forced to balance remote learning and childcare with their little ones in the midst of it all.
We’ve heard the phrase “uncertain times” perhaps too many times, but it doesn’t take away from the fact that our workers have experienced something unlike any other. As we slowly find ourselves creating the new version of an office space, company leadership is likely looking to welcome them back with gratitude for sticking it out with them.
From greeting them with a festive pair of custom socks to hosting a welcome back BBQ, here are six ways to connect with your employees when going back to the office.
1. Surprise them by Having Sweet, Functional Gifts Waiting for them at their Desks that’ll Help them to Adapt to a New Office Environment.
Employees are going to be looking for ways to feel like they’re getting back to normal, but the truth is that we’re now living in a new kind of normal. To help ease this transition, consider helping the team understand you care about their safety, as well as their happiness, by welcoming them back with a care package of essentials. You can include functional items like a face mask, hand sanitizer, disinfectant spray and a touchless door opener, as well as company-branded paraphernalia, like custom socks, t-shirts or refrigerator magnets. (Something like “I Survived Company Quarantine 2020” might inspire a little chuckle, if you feel it’s not too soon!)
2. Connect with your Team Members One-on-One or Host Regular “Town Hall” Style Meetings to See How they’re Doing and Learn the Ways your Company Can Help.
Especially during difficult and confusing situations, it’s a powerful thing for employees to feel as though their thoughts and concerns are being heard by their leadership teams. If you have the capacity to schedule meetings with each employee, consider arranging for opportunities to listen to them during one-on-one sessions. If this isn’t possible, provide a submission form where team members can enter questions and comments and then commit to answering them during town hall meetings. Even if it’s too soon to connect in the same room together, you can always connect through small socially-distant groups or over Zoom!
3. Have a little “Back to Business” Competition to Inspire Employee Engagement and Productivity.
Just as it took some time for your teams to adapt to WFH situations, they’ll probably need support when adjusting to a modified office environment. To help the transition feel more smooth and encourage participation, consider creating a little competition-based rewards program. While you may know how appreciation increases productivity, consider going one step further by expressing this appreciation with some tangible rewards! Budgets may be tighter than they were pre-coronavirus, but you don’t need to spend a fortune on prizes to make an impact. Something as simple as a pair of cheap fun socks or even a little plastic trophy can be enough to help boost employee morale.
4. Enjoy Some Time Outdoors with a Welcome Back BBQ, When it’s Safe to Do So, of Course.
While it’s nice to see coworkers over a Zoom call, there’s something different and special about finally being able to connect face-to-face again. When it’s safe to and if you have the resources, why not treat the team to a special barbecue to thank them for all their hard work and patience? The CDC has created guidelines for hosting outdoor get-togethers that are helpful for planning this special outing, but keep in mind that it should be optional for employees so they can decide on their own whether they feel comfortable participating.
5. Find ways to Help Employees Take Care of Themselves Physically and Mentally by Sharing Resources Often.
This has been a really difficult time for many of us, but in a lot of ways, the transition to working from home gave us the opportunity to connect with our colleagues much more deeply than ever before. We had meetings from our living rooms, met team members’ children and pets and probably had tough conversations about not only work, but also the state of the world. These unique circumstances would be difficult for anyone, and unfortunately, we’re not quite out of the woods just yet. Help your employees take care of their mental and physical health as they balance so many elements in their lives by sharing resources from local and national authorities, such as help lines, frequently.
6. Follow the Rules! Pay Attention to the Guidelines Presented by Local and Federal Leadership to Help Make Sure your Team Feels Safe and Cared for.
Your leadership team sets the example for the entire company, and when you’re dealing with the transition back to the office, it’s important to show all of your employees just how seriously you’re taking the situation! Make time for working with HR to understand the rules and regulations that you’re legally required to follow as you open up, and take into consideration recommendations that will help your employees feel as safe as possible when they come in. After all, for many people, the office is their second home, their team their second family. They’re trusting you with their health and safety – that’s a very big deal!
Reconnecting Slowly, But Surely
Collectively, COVID-19 has turned our whole world upside down, and as workplaces start to open back up, it’s natural to want to find creative and thoughtful ways to reconnect with team members we’ve missed. From a leadership perspective, it’s so important to express gratitude for the ways employees dealt with this difficult situation. They’ll be so glad to know that you really, truly care!