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Make Reconnecting With Employees Meaningful

At long last, the pandemic is coming to an end.  Things are beginning to return to something closer to normal, which means that your employees, many, if not most of whom have been cooped up at home for months, and in some cases, for more than a year, are starting to come back to the office.

It’s a time of tremendous transition, however, and if it’s not handled correctly, it can cause problems for you and your business in the weeks and months ahead. 

Here are a few tips you can begin employing, starting today, to navigate the complexities of the situation we now find ourselves in:

Give Everybody Time (And Space) To Take A Breath

The past year has strained our society, our economy and our relationships.  You can’t just wake up one morning and get back to normal, pretending that the past year didn’t happen.  People are going to need a little time to readjust.  Don’t expect that when your employees start showing up at the office again that things will just magically return to normal.  They won’t, and if that’s your expectation, then you’re guaranteed to be disappointed.

There are lots of pent up emotions and pent up frustrations that have built up over the last year and change.  People are going to need to talk about that. 

They’re going to need some time to rebuild the connections and relationships they had prior to the pandemic.  Those aren’t things that can be done on the fly, while you’re returning to business as usual. 

You’re going to have to make time for those kinds of things. 

If you don’t, your employees are going to take the time they need anyway, and you’re going to respond in anger and probably with reprimands, which will undoubtedly crush morale.  That’s just not a road you want to go down, so give everybody some time, and while you’re at it, give some to yourself too!

A good way to start the healing and restoration process is to schedule a get together, away from work, just so your employees can get used to being around each other again.  This provides the perfect space for old connections to be restored, and for new ones to be made.  Make sure that this occasion isn’t about the business of your business.  It should be about the business of your people.  That’s an important distinction and one you need to get right.

Have A Plan

You can’t just send out a mass email that everybody is to report to work next Monday and expect that to turn out well.  It won’t.  Although the pandemic is coming to an end and things are beginning to return to normal, taking a global view, the picture is very different.  The Delta variant is rampaging across much of the world, and even in many states here in the US. 

After all, although the US has done very well where vaccination rates are concerned, that’s not true in all parts of the country, and in those areas where vaccinations rates are low, the virus is spreading like wildfire.

All that to say that there’s still a lot of fear out there, so you need a “getting back to normal plan” which will almost certainly include a period of time where returning to the office is entirely optional, and your employees can continue working remotely if they wish.

You may want to introduce social distancing protocols at the office at least for a time, and slowly transition away from them, and some businesses are requiring proof of vaccination before employees can come back into the office.

There are no right answers here.  Ultimately, you’ve got to do what’s best for your business and your people, but when you’re formulating your plan, nothing should be off the table and every option should at least be given due consideration.

You’ll also probably want to invest in plenty of hand sanitizer and build sanitization stations around your office.  Small touches like that will go a long way toward making your employees feel safer.

Understand that the Equation has Changed

Many companies, including many huge companies like Google are embracing work at home culture.  Expect it to be much more commonplace post-pandemic than it was prior to. 

We’re also seeing evidence that a great many companies are interested in more of a hybrid model where employees alternate between working from home and working from the home offices they’ve built over the past year.

Again, there are no right answers here, but if you’ve got a subset of employees who prefer to work from home, and given that they’ve been doing that for months already, you have to ask yourself whether there’s a compelling reason to force those workers back into the office if they don’t want to return.  After all, if the work is getting done, isn’t that what matters most?

The bottom line here is that managers have their work cut out for them in the months ahead.  One powerful thing they can do to make the transition to post-pandemic life easier is to make reconnecting with employees meaningful.  While the tips and ideas above aren’t a magic bullet that will guarantee that they will be, they do represent a solid framework that will put you firmly on that path.