More best practices on returning to work

Planning for the return to work is creating pressure on business leaders to move carefully, yet quickly. Actions will have a lasting impact. While there is not a one-size-fits-all answer, these best practices will help to set you up for success.

More best practices1. Be empathetic toward individual situations, concerns, and fears.

Organizations are made up of individuals with different situations, concerns, and fears. Some may be at higher risk of serious complications from COVID-19. Others have the added stress of being a caregiver or challenges with childcare. In addition to establishing safety measures, it is important for employees to feel safe. Don’t put all employees in the same box. Some may be struggling more than others.

2. Ask employees how they feel about your return to work plan.

The only way to know how your employees are feeling about the return to work is to ask them. Capturing candid and honest feedback is the best, most effective way you can do this. So, before any transition plan is communicated to the staff, gather employee feedback via a short, targeted survey. Awareness of what employees are thinking, how they are feeling, and where there could be potential challenges will help you to avoid hot spots. Plus, letting employees know you value their input will build trust and improve your odds of success even more.

3. Gain valuable intelligence with short, targeted surveys.

Shorter and more focused than a comprehensive annual engagement survey, pulse surveys capture real-time employee feedback that enables you to tackle immediate topics and gain valuable intelligence for mission-critical business issues. Typically, fewer than 10 questions each, these quick-to-launch, fast-turnaround surveys help inform C-suite, human resources, operations, and technology leaders.

4. Use employee feedback to inform return to work decision making.

Think of the transition in three phases: planning, communication, and retrospective. Capturing employee feedback on these topics during each phase of your return to work plan will give you the guidance you need, help you stay on track, and quickly identify when a pivot may be needed.

5. Share with employees what you hear and how you will use their input.

  • Communicate with employees before each pulse survey launch. Explain the purpose and what to expect.
  • Thank employees for taking the time to complete the survey. Assure them that you value their feedback – when you do, they will be more likely to participate again the next time.
  • Respond quickly to pulse survey results. Pinpoint one or two actions you can take right away. This will have a better impact than spending too much time on a detailed plan.
  • Tie the actions you take to the pulse survey results. Whenever possible, let employees know that the decisions you made were based on their input.  
  • Continue to use pulse surveys beyond the return to work transition. Maintain connection with employees. Use their feedback to guide your decision making and build trust throughout the organization.

Laura Brinton is content marketing director at Energage, a Philadelphia-based research and consulting firm that surveyed more than 2 million employees at more than 7,000 organizations in 2019. Energage is The Washington Post’s research partner for Top Workplaces.

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