More than a year after the onset of the life-changing COVID-19 pandemic, life is slowly returning to normal. Thanks to widespread vaccination efforts, people are reverting to their pre-pandemic routines and businesses are beginning to open up to full capacity. Although a return to normalcy is great, big changes like these can cause stress and anxiety for your employees — particularly if they’re customer-facing.
In fact, one study found that 49% of people are anxious about returning to in-person interaction when the pandemic is over — regardless of whether or not they’re vaccinated. Folks who have been working remotely since the beginning of the pandemic are among the most hesitant to return to pre-pandemic life. Some are still concerned about contracting the virus, others are just not ready to completely change the lifestyle they’ve grown used to over the past year.
That’s why it’s so important to have a great communication plan in place for sharing any changes you intend to implement as we approach normalcy. Whether you’re considering bringing remote employees back to the office or you’re planning to eliminate mask requirements for customers based on the CDC’s new guidelines, you can ease your employees’ concerns by sharing all the details of your plans as soon as possible.
Not only is thoughtful employee communication the right thing to do, but it’s also critical as we enter the New Applicant Economy. Businesses across all industries are looking to hire fast. So your best employees can and will leave if they feel that you’re not being forthright when it comes to decisions that relate to their health and wellbeing.
So here are seven things to communicate to your employees to keep them feeling happy, healthy, and supported as we approach a return to pre-pandemic normalcy.
Timeline for office reopening
If you’ve been fortunate enough to work remotely during this pandemic but plan to reopen the office now that it’s safer to do so, don’t spring it on people. Start communicating a timeline for returning to the office as soon as possible — even if it’s still subject to change. Transparency into your plans allows people to prepare mentally and emotionally.
Whether you’re bringing folks back to the office for the first time or loosening capacity requirements, be very clear about what you’re doing to keep everyone safe. Are you requiring employees to get vaccinated? Are you going to continue practicing social distancing? The safety precautions you implement will of course depend on the type of business you’re running — what matters is that you’re open and upfront about the decisions you do make.
Your rationale for any changes
Back up any changes you make with your rationale for why. Share CDC guidelines, vaccination rates, or positive COVID numbers in your area — anything that justifies your decisions. When you share that your decisions are supported by expert opinions and data, your employees will feel safer and trust that you’ve put their health and safety first.
Remote work options
If you’re re-opening a previously closed office, be transparent about how often you will expect your employees to work onsite. Folks have grown accustomed to the flexibility that comes with remote work and many are nervous that their employers will eliminate this perk altogether. Make your future remote work options clear so your team doesn’t start looking for new roles that offer the flexibility they prefer.
Mental health resources
Even the best changes can be hard to handle emotionally. Make sure your employees know that you support them if they are struggling with a return to pre-pandemic life. Reiterate any mental health benefits you offer, such as extra days off or access to counseling.
A rapidly changing economy means different things for different organizations. Is your company doing well now that consumers are spending more? Are you struggling to hire to keep up with customer demand? Keep your employees up-to-date on how your company is impacted by the economic changes and how those changes impact them. Whether the news is good or bad, folks appreciate honesty and transparency.
Of course your team might have different concerns not mentioned on this list. The easiest way to learn what your employees expect to hear from you is to ask them directly. Send a survey or host focus groups to get your team’s thoughts, concerns, or ideas as it relates to your organization’s return to normalcy. And take any feedback you do receive seriously. That way, your employees will know that you have their wellbeing in mind.