Getting Employee Buy In to Return to the Office

Gaining employee buy-in to come back to the office requires assurance on the part of an employer to remain in strict compliance with current regulations. In addition, mental health support on site can reduce anxiety related to a return. 

Business recovery is nothing new following economic downturn. Recovery now comes with added risks to personal health and safety. New business models and scenario planning will evolve and adapt as leaders make difficult decisions on how and when space is used with no accurate predictability of an outcome.

Restarting business can be as daunting as starting a new business. Want, need, supply and demand will be re-evaluated against adjustments that comply with new regulations. Adhering to health and wellbeing requirements, employers should evaluate a return objection on an individual basis, noting that those facing co-morbidity obstacles may be entitled to reasonable accommodations under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The Pandemic forced an unexpected experiment in working efficiently and effectively out of the office. Now teams are working in shifts and phases as businesses aim to bring staff back in. With scenario planning in place, any organization can determine whether to shrink its footprint when setbacks occur or increase according to growth. Regardless of square footage, leaders should implement a wellness action plan during Covid-19 whenever signs of struggle appear.

“We have to start planning life…we’re not there yet, but this is not a light switch that we can just flick and go back to normal…we’re going to have to restart the economy…restart systems we shut down abruptly…we need to plan for that…it’s going to come down to how good we are with testing.” New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo

Strong leaders must earn trust through concise communication. Address health and safety issues, focusing on actions that protect staff, whether in the office or for those planning a return. Collaborative conversations, social tools, team meetings and signage can address feelings of isolation for those working virtually. Train supervisors to identify and react to both real and assumed mental challenges.  

Set up agile teams that respond to changing conditions, put solutions in place, report successes and document failure. Adjusting to resiliency requires continual adaptability.

Implement risk-mitigation response measures to alleviate stress while protecting the rights of every individual. Screening and testing measures may seem invasive to privacy rights, yet it provides peace of mind. Coming back in requires trust that health and safety procedures will be enforced without exception. Get creative to make the workplace a less scary place to be.

Train and empower frontline managers to spot those experiencing psychological issues that could affect safe behavior. Feedback loops and open conversations will demonstrate that actionable results will provide a clear understanding of policy and procedure.

Remain nimble as teams return whereby staff feels comfortable with new health and safety policies. Bring remote employees back gradually, using shift patterns and alternative scheduling to maintain social distance in the upside down.

Plan for another surge with scenario planning. Prepare adaptable scheduling that adjusts to low density and physical distancing. High-risk staff will return to virtual employment until transmission is lowered. Have alternative plans to accommodate those with young children, subject to public transport, or feeling discomfort about office safety. Adopt software solutions, such as Accordant, to help you plan for workplace changes quickly and safely.

Show empathy regardless of the reason some may not want to come back in. Business will continue, although leaders might need to engage in deeply personal conversations without judgement prioritizing ones physical and mental safety over the desire to see staff at their desk. 

Covid-19 is fast moving and non-discriminatory. In truth, employers have little ability to mitigate risk in communities where staff lives, yet business must respond with resilience and agility. Short of widespread testing or an effective vaccine, workers value effective safety measures in terms of feeling safe at work, although they likely struggle with maintaining proper distancing from coworkers. 



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