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A Safe Return (Getting Back to Work - 5/15)


Teams planning on fully returning to the office will need to consider work spaces, cleaning protocols, and shift scheduling as part of their return to work strategy. For those offices that must return: how you do it is more important than when you do it. Creating a strategy that leads to the safest redeployment of your workforce is paramount. Despite your agreement or disagreement with the re-opening timeline, the decisions you start with are most important.

1. Safety

  • Preparing the workspace to receive returning employees, establishing cleaning cycles, testing protocols, space requirement guidelines, and ordering supplies to support your workforce should be the starting point.

  • Educating staff on self-check, team-check, and reporting criteria around new office safety policies must happen before a return to normal. Establishing ongoing training schedules, client safety priorities, and record keeping will keep you prepared for any response reporting businesses may be required to participate in.

  • Making safety resources available, even if it’s simply public information, will make your team feel much more confident about the decisions being made to return to a physical work location.

  • Speak directly to your team(s) to ensure they get the message from the top and lay out a clear vision with real priorities and process markers that set the tone for a return to normal.

2. Client-Centered Decision Making

  • Get clarity on how your client expects you to interact with their processes, systems, and teams. Ensure you understand any training expectations being set in their environment, safety protocols your team needs to observe as they interact with each client, and expectations they have in your engagement going forward.

  • Be proactive in your client interaction. Establish your intention to support their operations early and share your protocols and processes so that they are clear on what, if any, commitments you have made to your workforce. Ensure there is alignment in their expectations with how you plan to deliver going forward.

  • Anticipate a slow return or even cuts in your existing client engagements. Despite your value, your customers may now find they have different priorities, other projects take precedence, or simply have lost the business that resulted in your engagement. Delays and similar impacts need to be expected and, more importantly, planned for. Can you sustain your current headcount, cost structure, and delivery methods in a reduced demand environment for a prolonged cycle? If not, where will you adjust, and what does that timing look like?

3. Employee Engagement

  • Check for enthusiasm about returning. People have lost loved ones or dear friends, are fearful of getting sick themselves, or may have a lack of trust that their teammates will prioritize safety in the same way they will. Employees may need additional support before getting back into the full swing of work. A variety of low cost or no cost tools are available for mental health support. These tools may be a part of your medical plan, employee assistance program, or you may need to rely on publicly available resource. In all cases, ensuring you demonstrate empathy now is more important than ever and sets the tone for the comfort your returning workforce will need as they get back up to full speed.

  • Establish or re-emphasize two-way communication. Making sure employees know they are being heard is critical, creating forums like weekly team calls, ongoing regular newsletters, and establishing lines of communication back to decision makers becomes most important and more meaningful in your journey to creating confidence across your organization.

  • Make the tough decisions. You may find some team members are simply not ready or have re-evaluated their contribution and role in your organization. Your priority has to be establishing a positive and engaging culture and this may mean you will need to make hard decisions about separating people working against the interest of that positive outcome. This is an “all hands” moment and tone is everything, protecting your team needs to remain the priority and creating a collective mindset that pushes together is the difference maker.

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