May 21, 2020

COVID-19 Return to Work image

As more states loosen COVID-19 restrictions on businesses reopening, bringing employees back to the workplace after weeks or months of being furloughed or working from home poses many “if, when and how” questions. As part of an organization’s return-to-work strategy, training employees on some of the changes they may see before they go back to the workplace can help them adjust, both physically and emotionally, to the new normal.

A well-thought-out return-to-work training program that’s in step with local, state and federal guidance can help smooth employees’s transition back to the workplace and reduce fears and uncertainty by: 

    • Clarifying new or changed protocols and policies
      Preparing for employees to return to work involves a lot of logistical challenges. For example, what does physical distancing mean for common areas, team meetings, conference rooms, kitchens and elevators? Where will hand sanitizers be located and will masks and gloves be required? What about keeping copiers and printers sanitized? Providing details about new or changed protocols and policies that affect personal interactions and business operations can minimize confusion, and help employees feel safe and keep them healthy and productive.
    • Reinforcing the right behaviors
      Staying healthy in a changed and changing work environment also includes maintaining the right attitude and behaviors. With leaders as role models for the organization’s culture, this is the time to demonstrate and encourage patience, empathy and flexibility. It’s also important to raise awareness of behaviors that may discriminate or show bias against certain individuals or groups.The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has alerted organizations to pandemic-related discrimination and harassment, urging employers and employees to ”be mindful of instances of harassment, intimidation or discrimination in the workplace and to take action to prevent or correct this behavior.” 
    • Reassuring employees the organization cares
      Communicating early, often and honestly can also reassure employees that the organization is taking steps to safeguard their health, safety and well-being. Making it easy for employees to ask questions, express concerns and give feedback and suggestions further sets the right tone that the organization cares about employees. This is also the time to remind employees of the various services, assistance programs and mental health resources available through the organization to help them deal with stress, anxiety, depression and other concerns brought on by the COVID-19 crisis.
    • Providing COVID-19 updates and resources
      Keeping in mind that information is changing rapidly, online training, HR portals, intranets and other communication channels are effective tools to help employees stay up to date with COVID-19 guidance from government and health authorities. Regularly sharing and updating information from trusted sources can also help dispel myths and rumors about the pandemic, such as the myth that adding hot peppers to food prevents or cures the coronavirus. Among the most reliable resources are the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention CDC, the World Health Organization WHO, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration OSHA, and state and territorial health departments. 

Traliant Insight

As COVID-19 restrictions begin to lift and organizations transition staff from staying-at-home to returning-to-the-workplace, there are a host of issues most employers and employees haven’t faced before. As part of a comprehensive return-to-work plan, training can help organizations prepare employees for the many changes they may encounter, explain health and safety measures, underscore leadership’s empathy and concern, and encourage adaptability and new ways to communicate and collaborate — qualities that can strengthen workplace culture during these challenging times and beyond.

Sign up for a free trial of our COVID-19: Returning to the Workplace course:

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