As millions of employees continue to work from home during the COVID-19 pandemic, many organizations are in the process of planning when to reopen and how to bring employees back safely and keep them safe. Whenever employees reboard — a SHRM survey released in early June found that 53% of US workplaces plan to reopen by July 15 — a detailed plan that includes returning-to-the-workplace training is an essential step in helping employees navigate the new normal.
In a recent article in TrainingIndustry.com, Traliant’s Chief Learning Officer Andrew Rawson shared some thoughts with other learning leaders on how reboarding and training can help prepare employees for the changes they may see when they return to the physical workplace.
Here are four takeaways:
1. Minimize health and safety risks
Reboarding — bringing employees back into the workplace after an extended absence — can help organizations minimize health and safety risks as employees return to the workplace. Topics that reboarding programs should address include (but are not limited to):
- Social distancing requirements
- Temperature checks
- Cleaning, sanitation and hygiene guidelines
- Personal protective equipment (PPE) guidelines
- Company-wide procedures for suspected or confirmed COVID-19 cases
- Visitor guidelines
- Entry and exit protocols
2. Keep employees emotionally healthy
Effective reboarding should also reassure employees that they are protected and supported by their employers — which, during these trying times, is the “bare minimum” they can do for their people, says Andrew Rawson. Reboarding is critical in keeping employees mentally healthy and helping them navigate the “unique emotional, physical and psychological issues” associated with returning to work after this “COVID-induced, extended work-from-home experience.”
3. Help employees stay up-to-date with evolving guidelines
Reboarding should include information about COVID-19 from trusted sources to help employees stay up to date with evolving guidelines and distinguish between facts and rumors about the pandemic. These include the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention CDC, state and territorial health departments, and city and county authorities.
4. Train employees before they return to the workplace
Training employees and managers on COVID-19 compliance and other changes before their first day back can help raise awareness, explain new protocols and policies, address concerns and minimize or eliminate confusion and fears about the new work environment. As part of ongoing communication, training can reinforce the message that the organization cares and is taking steps to ensure employees’ well-being.
Bringing employees back to the workplace safely during and after COVID-19 requires thoughtful planning and flexibility, for today’s guidelines and recommendations may be different tomorrow. By addressing health and safety issues, as well as employees’ emotional and psychological well-being, a comprehensive reboarding plan and training program can reduce pandemic anxiety and help employees stay focused on working rather than worrying.