What does your return to work plan look like

Managing your staff

This module is specifically designed for employers to put a Return to Work Plan in place for staff returning to the workplace after working from home due to COVID-19.

Key learning outcomes:

  • Communicate effectively with your employees
  • Ensuring a COVID safety plan is in place
  • Communicate changes and policies to customers and clients
  • Employee engagement strategies

Video Presentation

Returning to the Workplace Plan

Hello, my name is Margaret Goody, I'm the HR strategist from Akyra Strategy and Development. And today we're going to talk about returning to the workplace plan where we actually try and cater for every team and every team member, because it's really important coming back from COVID-19, where everybody understands where they've been, where they are going to, and what that means for them in your business.

Communicate with your employees

So before reopening, one of the key things is that you communicate with your employees. Just talk to them about what is this that's happening. What the business will be doing, how it will be structured when they come back. You need to make sure that you've looked at how this social distancing, or work you need to look at whether you've got the hand sanitizers in place. You need to ensure whether there's any other PPE that's required. Or alternatively, whether everybody who has been working from home is going to stay working from home for a little while longer. But you need to talk to them about this whole process, because I need to be involved and need to feel that they're a part of the whole process.

And I guess it's some people who have been working from home will stay that way. Some people who have been working from home will do a hybrid of working from home and working from the office, or the workplace. Others who have been working all the way through anyway, nothing will change for them. And then there'll be others that will be coming back into the workplace full time. And they're the ones who probably going to be most concerned about what you need and what you've got in place there.

You need to look at your policies, how your seating is organised because social distancing is still applies. You'll have to look at, you know, whether you're going to have staggered work hours and what that will look like.

You need to make sure that there's a two way feedback channel. Now, whether you're having teams meetings, zoom meetings, whether you’re just doing emails backwards and forwards, or telephone calls. Whatever works for your business. But you must make sure that everybody is involved with that. And I guess it's just then making sure that the plan is focused on how you're going to work forward from here.

Ensure you have a COVID safety plan in place

The next bit is about during the reopening. So what happens then? Well, you need to make sure that, you know, employee screensavers and reminder signage is around to instruct employees on the latest versions of policies, rules and safety protocols. And just gently remind people all the time about, you know, they need to social distance and they need to constantly wash their hands, sanitize, wipe down the work desks when they start work, or when they leave. Promote the availability of the preventative resources that you've got for them, and that includes the, the sanitizers, the wipe down cloths, all those sorts of things. And also make sure that you've got a cleaner that does come in or that the office is cleaned daily because that's really important.

You need to communicate whether you’ve got any health checks that you want to have in place before they come in, because some places are putting in, taking a temperature on coming into the workplace. Others are not doing anything like that at all. You need to make sure that, that the people know about that before they get to your workplace. And so that when it is reopened and they are back in the workplace, whether on a hybrid model or back full time, they know what's going on.

Implement and promote a clean desk policy. So at the end of every day, make sure that the desk is clean to the cleaners can actually walk all the desks down.

Re-enforce the regulations on the social distancing. Make sure their seating is far enough apart. If you're a go to meeting room, people are in your sit on every second seat. So put a reservation sign on the one in the middle or something like that. And if you're having a staff meeting, then those chairs need to be spaced out a meter and a half so that people are distanced while they're working. And they're not to bring unnecessary belongings into the office are the personal belongings, because it's just, there's just no way really to put them usually.

One of the other things is that, their bags to go on the floor, not on the desk, because we need to keep the desktops as clear as possible and as clean as possible.

And it's also then, as a business, having a plan to reintegrate people who've been working from home with those who have been working all the way through in the office or reintegrating people, your staff who have old thing working from home. So have a plan on how to do that and make sure that the communication is open and clear and that there were no sort of hidden agendas going on.

Promote social news and updates to maintain employee engagement. So do some newsletters, make sure that you have regular meetings and I don’t mean regular like once a month. I mean, regular by at least weekly. If you can do them daily, that's even better, but weekly at least just have a quick catch up. It doesn't have to be very long. It can just be about five or 10 minutes just saying, this is where we're at. This is what's happening. This is what we're going do continue doing. This is what we've learned. And this is why we got into do things differently.

Communicate changes and policies to customers and clients

I guess it's also updating customers and clients and what you're doing in-house with your staff, with your workforce. But also about what they need to do if they come into your workplace. And advising your employees that you've got this plan in place for customers and clients, so if they come into the workplace, then there social distancing, and that if people don't respect that, then they'll be asked to leave.

Also those people who have employees who account managers, perhaps, who, are on the road and that's fine. Always make an appointment to go and see your client. Always make sure that, you see them in their workplace. If you are in the field, literally, then it's across the bonnet of the car because that gives you your meter and a half spacing. If they are unwell, then just say that you will talk to them next time, catch up with them. Do not stay in a workplace where you're visiting, where the person is, obviously not well that you're speaking with. Maybe nothing to do with COVID-19, but the fact is you cannot stay in a place where it, where there are unwell people.

When you get back in the car, you should have hands the wipes or hand sanitizer, just wipe your hands, clean them down and put those pieces of used wipes into a bag so that when you get back to work into the workplace or back to home, whichever it is, you just put that straight in the bin.

There's some just really quite clear, but very simple things that, you know, we probably usually should be doing, but we generally don't in our busy lives. And so during this whole period, we need to make sure there, the sorts of things that we're doing.

Continue with employee engagement strategies

So then the next part is about looking at, after reopening. So what happens then? So what happens then is that, is there anything for the next month to 12 to 24 months. So you continuously update your crisis communication plans to include the learnings from COVID-19. And the learnings will come also from your employees. You know, they will have things that they've learned that they want to bring to the table and you need to consider them as well.

Audit and report on, or if you don't like the word audit, review and report on the efficiency of your communication methods and channels to identify areas of strengths and weaknesses. For example, Did newsletters work the best? Did emails work the best? Did teams work best? Did Zoom work best? And then identify how that worked best for your particular workforce or even for teams in your particular workforce. Because some of them the messaging and communicating with them might've been different that worked more effectively.

If you had a multi channel communication program, so you're using teams and emails and phones. Just to assess which one of them was the best and which one maybe requires further investment, because it actually had the most potential.

Again, continuously communicate. And this comes up in every single thing that I talk about in relation to COVID-19 and your workforce. Just communicate with your employees about what is happening or not happening. And by communicating, I don't mean you standing there as their employer telling them, this is what will be happening and then not hearing what they've got to say. You might hear it even, but you actually have to listen because this, this will only work (we'll only get out of this with an intact business) if we actually not only hear, but listen to what our employees have got to say. Sometimes what they are suggesting is not practicable, but talk to them about why it's not just, or don't just say, Oh no, that's ridiculous. Please don't use those words, say things like, okay, we've considered what you've had to say, but this is why won't work because, or this is why we think it won't work because in this workplace.

Monitor the workplace culture and identify what employees want to see implemented, for example, greater cross-functional connections between teams, because one of the things that's come out of this so far is that some teams are working better cross-functionally because they have to use the teams or zoom meetings. Because there's more people involved and they actually get involved, which is really good.

Are there increased management check-ins they want? Because the biggest thing we've learned through COVID-19 is that employees by and large do trust their employers. But you can easily lose that trust if you don't communicate, don't listen, don’t hear what they’ve got to say and then don’t act on it. Or if you do, or don't act on it and then communicate it back. So please try not to lose that trust.

Create the customer client contact plan for customer outreach, which we talked a bit about when reopening the workplace, but it's after the reopening, you just continue to do that.

And management is to address the ongoing business challenges, such as changes to strategic priorities, causing employees to feel uncertain of their position. So if the priorities change, tell employees, tell them why. Say, you know, these are, the priorities have changed because of X, Y, Z, because it's something that's outside of your office and control. And maybe they've got some thoughts about how it could be better managed as well. And so if you include them in, then they're more likely to be part of the solution and help you to deliver on it.

So that's all for today. If you've got any questions about returning to the workplace plan, please feel free to give me a call. So, my name is Margaret Goody, as I said again, thank you for your time today. And you can contact me on Margaret.goody@akyra.com.au or (07) 3204 8830. Thanks again.

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