Employee Engagement: How to get back to business as usual

We are in the midst of a worldwide pandemic, a lifetime event that has tested each and every one of us either as working parents, business owners, carers, key workers, line managers, or the newly born “furloughed employees”.

No matter what role your employees have taken during this lockdown period, there will at some point in the future be a transition back to a form of normality.

After extensive time away from the workplace as business leaders you will need to carefully consider how you are going to support your employees in this transition.

You will no doubt have a mixed population of employees- some who have been furloughed at home with their families who are now desperate to return to their roles, and others who have been holding the fort working from home feeling somewhat resentful of those who have been having fun whilst furloughed.  Regardless of how employees are categorised, we do need to carefully consider supporting them back into their full capacity in the work environment.

In anticipation for getting the greenlight to return to premises, you should start to consider ensuring that the office is all ready for returners. Many cleaners and facility teams will have been furloughed, so considering returning them before your other workers. Does the kitchen have milk? Has the fire alarm been tested? Have the drinks machines been flushed? Are the phone lines working?

Take time to review how the 2-metre distancing can work in your premises. Consider demarking communal areas and using clear and visible signage to reinforce distancing and handwashing.

Upon your return remember the basics such as prompting employees to redirect landlines and amend out of offices, so the external world know you are back in business. It’s likely IT will have a surge of queries such as password resets so ensure that your team / out-service support are available.

Be mindful that your employees will not have travelled far in recent weeks, some will be very anxious about the prospect. For employees who are anxious about leaving the house or getting back on the roads again, you should perhaps be flexible on working hours or consider a phased return.  Also encourage your clients and network to use video conferencing for briefings.

You may want to consider if all employees need to return to work on the same day at the same time. Can people be phased in to provide support for their anxieties, social distancing, childcare?  This doesn’t need to be a long-term arrangement but for the first week or two would be greatly supportive of your employee’s wellbeing.  Don’t forget for several weeks there will have been a vast amount of trust and flexibility as people have worked from home, try to maintain this rapport in the workplace.

Ensure that you are prompt in getting everyone together within their teams for a catch up (in adherence to social distancing). Employees will need to feel that they are back in a team and reminded of team working and business priorities.  If the size of your organisation allows for it, try sitting down with employees individually to discuss their re-introduction into the workplace and any problems they might have.

Be prepared that productivity may take some time to fully resume, people will need time to adapt back to full working.

There will undoubtedly also be concerns about job loses, so clearly communicate the envisaged impact and give reassurance if you can. If you need to reduce overheads also consider offering voluntary redundancy or reductions in hours / salaries, people may have taken this time to reevaluate things and may be open minded to suggestions.

Depending on the nature of your work, you may also need to consider re-inducting employees. It’s surprising how many things people will have forgotten, so ensure that you take the time to reconsolidate.

Some will struggle with the transition back to the office having been at home for some time and there may well be conflict between employees. Others may have sadly lost friends and family to COVID-19 and so may also benefit from support. So, make sure your employees feel supported, if you have an Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) it would be worth sharing the contact details as employees return to work and ensure line managers are proactive in supporting their teams.

In summary what this pandemic should have taught us is to be kind and patient. If this theme continues back in the workplace, employees will feel supported and normality will resume.

To find out how we can help you with an employee engagement strategy, or if you have any queries throughout the transition please call us on 01522 370190 to speak to one of our team.



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