Addressing Fears of Returning to the Workplace

An August 2020 Gallup Report found that 61% of Americans believe that the pandemic is worsening, and another Report found that Americans rank the pandemic as the most important problem facing the US today. Among these fears are worries about returning to the workplace. While working from home has become the new normal for many, most employees expect that they will return to the office at some point in the future.

As this day approaches, one looming question remains: how should organizations address their teams’ fears of going back to the workplace once it’s time to return?

Now more than ever, it’s important for HR teams to take charge and strategize effective and thoughtful ways to ease employee worries. Below are some things to keep in mind when developing your return plans:

Maintain Frequent and Open Communication

Communication is one of the most powerful tools to support employees during difficult times. Lack of communication can increase employee uneasiness, so it’s important to communicate frequently. Being open and transparent about company decisions can also help ease some of this uncertainty. Hosting company-wide meetings and dispersing detailed updates via email are great ways to maintain an open dialogue and provide clarity during these uncertain times.

Involve Employees In Your Plans

Many employees are worried that their concerns or fears about returning to the office may not be heard or met. To ease these worries, it’s important to involve employees in your planning process. Soliciting employee feedback through online surveys and meeting with representatives from every department in your company are great ways to involve your employees and ensure that their concerns are being addressed.

Talk With Leaders Outside of Your Company

Adjusting to our current situation has been a series of new challenges for all of us. Make the most informed plan by reaching out to leaders at other companies to see how they are planning to return to the office. Reaching out to other HR professionals in your network can help you collaborate and learn how to make this transition much smoother.

Prepare For A Variety of Circumstances

This pandemic has impacted all of us differently. While some employees may transition more easily back into the office, others may be dealing with more harsh and stressful circumstances. For example, you may have employees who are reluctant to return to the office because they do not have a childcare alternative for their children who are completing schooling online. Others may have suffered serious losses of loved ones or are dealing with worsening mental health.

Now is the time to be compassionate and consider the individual needs of your employees. This is a great opportunity to get creative and find solutions that work best for everyone. This is a stressful and uncertain time for everyone, so prepare to be flexible.

Lead With Empathy

Our current reality has drastically altered the employee experience for all. Many workers have new stressors to their lives, so it’s important to make decisions with an empathetic mindset. Showing understanding for the many challenges your employees may be facing can make this easier for all of us.