Are employees ready to return to work?

When is the right time to bring employees back to the office, and what's the best way to go about it? These are the big questions on the minds of business leaders everywhere. There’s pressure to move quickly, but the actions you take will have a lasting impact.

Return to work

The problem is, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all answer. After all, no two organizations are exactly alike.

Your return-to-work plan involves more than government compliance or health and safety concerns. It starts with a return-to-work planning team and a strategy based on employee feedback. 

An effective return-to-work planning team includes a cross-functional group of employees responsible for developing, implementing, and managing the plan. Hiring an external health advisor or consultant can also offer a third-party perspective and help your organization to navigate challenges and concerns along the way. 

Here are a few things to consider when forming a return-to-work planning team:

  • Select the right team members: Choose committed team players from across all departments who will add value to the group and commit to carrying out the initiative.
  •  Assign individual roles: Define responsibilities for the development, transition, and monitoring phases.
  • Communicate clear expectations: Ensure each member understands their roles and responsibilities.
  •  Identify areas of concern: Discuss potential challenges so you are prepared to address them in your plan.

Next, roll up your sleeves and begin building your return-to-work plan. Start with a pulse survey to capture employee feedback, measure readiness, identify potential challenges, and show employees you are listening to their concerns. You’ll understand what concerns them most and strengthen their commitment to your organization.

Some other considerations:

  • Determine how to bring employees back safely, whether at one time, a hybrid approach, or a phased strategy. 
  • Review the office layout and evaluate how to organize and repurpose workspaces for individuals and small group gatherings.
  • Provide clear guidelines for mask protocols and how to share public spaces safely.
  • Ensure compliance with federal, state and local guidelines and the required steps when someone tests positive for COVID-19.
  • Consider how to communicate when an employee tests positive and how you will cover the workload, if necessary.

Lastly, adapting your plan and knowing how to pivot quickly is an integral part of a return-to-work plan. Expect your plan to be tested, and be ready to make adjustments.

Laura Brinton is content marketing director at Energage, a Philadelphia-based employee survey firm. Energage is The Washington Post’s partner for Top Workplaces. To nominate your company as a Top Workplace, go to

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