Are Your Employees Anxious About Returning to the Office?

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Apple is one of the latest companies to delay their return to the office. Rather than going back to work this fall, Apple announced on Aug. 20 that it was pushing its return to work plan into early 2022.

Many large companies like Apple are unsure of how to proceed given surges in the Delta variant, proving that the transition back to in-person won’t be as easy as expected.  

To ensure a smooth process and reassure anxious employees, companies need to develop a clear plan for returning back to work. They also need to ensure teams are on board.

Keep reading below to learn four ways to reengage staff to come back to the office.

Develop a Comprehensive Return to Work Plan

A comprehensive plan is needed before employees will feel comfortable returning to the office. Even though 365 million COVID-19 doses have been administered in the United States, there are still concerns over the Delta variant. 

It’s also unclear how many other variants may emerge or how many employees are getting fully vaccinated.

Most executives remain determined to get back to business. Seventy-four percent of 350 corporate leaders surveyed said they planned on having employees back in the office by the fall of 2021. Without a proper plan, this could result in conflicts and resignations.

What should an effective return to work policy include?

First of all, the process of employees physically returning to the office should be gradual. According to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, plans should address COVID-19 screenings, social distancing practices, personal protective equipment (PPE), and employee childcare options.

Companies will also need to enhance employee communications regarding the plan, maintain their staff’s health privacy, and minimize liability from employees who refuse to return to the office or get sick.

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Ensure Your Health Safety Protocols

There have been gains in the battle against COVID-19 but the pandemic is far from over. That’s why companies reengaging employees will need to implement health safety protocols.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recommends that all employee tasks are assessed to eliminate possible exposure to COVID-19.

Office sanitizing services should be scheduled and proper employee hygiene should be encouraged. Social distancing is still effective in avoiding infection and companies will need to develop a policy for employees who get sick while working in the office. 

Employees won’t feel confident returning to the office until they know there is a system in place to protect their health.

Offer Flexible Work Hours

Managers shouldn’t think that a return to work means the end of flexible work hours.

On the contrary, flexible scheduling and remote work should still be offered to employees who are under quarantine (but not showing symptoms) or whose jobs can easily be done outside of the office.

Allowing certain employees to work from home also lowers the office density, which decreases the likelihood of infections.

The fact is many workers still want to continue working remotely. A Gallup poll found that 44% of American workers would prefer continuing to work from home after COVID-19 restrictions are lifted. Employees now expect these options to be available.

Reevaluate Medical Benefits

The last thing companies can do to reengage employees is to evaluate and enhance their health insurance plans.

Employees want to know they’ll be covered to receive treatments for COVID-19 or other serious illnesses. The pandemic has been a reminder that healthcare is a priority.

Not being able to pay medical bills accounts for 66.5% of bankruptcies in the United States, according to a study in the American Journal of Public Health. Employees won’t be willing to take risks with their health if medical care is not adequately covered.

HR professionals should review health insurance eligibility requirements, whether group plans cover telehealth, flexible spending accounts, and paid leave policies.

Do You Have a Back to Work Plan?

Communication is the key to an effective return to work plan. Companies need to listen to employee concerns and draft a plan that ensures safe working conditions.

It’s also important for them to follow the trends and scientific recommendations. Many companies have already delayed their return to the office as COVID variants surge.

A comprehensive plan is the best way to keep everyone safe and earn employee buy-in. Communication is the key to an effective return to work plan. Companies will need to listen to employee concerns and draft a plan that ensures safe working conditions.

Podcast: Vaccine Mandates and the Safe Return to Work

Photo Courtesy of Stock Photo Secrets 

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