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Developing a Return-to-Work Communications Strategy

As businesses across the country begin to reopen following Covid-19, employees will need to feel safe and understand what to expect in new ways of working.  While some businesses have extended telecommuting through the summer, that’s not an option for everyone.  If you decide to reopen your business, here are some strategies to keep in mind.

Make Safety Visible

For employees to focus on their jobs, they must feel safe.  Federal and state agencies have issued guidance on safe practices, including social distancing, frequent hand washing, and cleaning and sanitizing of workspaces.  But these are mostly voluntary.   Show employees that you care by communicating safety procedures at your business.  Make it inescapable: posters, signage, emails, intranet pop-ups. Provide personal protective equipment at no cost to employees.  Review and update your telecommuting policies. Ensure your managers practice and encourage uptake of new well-being processes.

Communicate Constantly

The new normal is going to be confusing for a while.  That’s why it’s so important that the business leadership is aligned, communicates proactively, and walks the talk.  Train front-line managers on new working practices and talk about what you expect from them. The manager who doesn’t comply will be very easy to identify.  Ensure there are two-way communication channels so that employees can surface issues and obtain rapid responses. Use pulse surveys to identify issues that are creating concerns. Now is the time to be visible, encouraging, and also transparent about the business challenges and what how employees can help.

Support Mental Health

Six months ago most people could not imagine daily life during a global pandemic.  Unfortunately, now we all can. Your employees may have experienced the virus themselves, lost a loved one, know a friend or family member who is unemployed, or struggled with isolation or family issues.  Now is the time for empathy.  Show it in your leadership communications and encourage managers and supervisors to do the same.  Emphasize the availability of counseling benefits or Employee Assistance Programs.  Make it easy to ask for help.

There is not one prevailing roadmap through these challenging times, but employees want to hear from you.  Communicate and manage sensitively. Be human.

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