Now that we’re almost halfway through 2021, returning to the office is likely past the planning phase and now onto implementation. There’s a lot of change happening — new seating arrangements, policy changes, expectations, and some unknowns that will get thrown into the mix. 

While all of those things are important, connecting with your employees and communicating key messages along the way should also be high on the priority list. While the last year has provided many unknowns and quick pivots, getting back into the office is another change employees will have to endure. Make it a little easier with these tips. 

Communicate with employees early and often

Your employees are your greatest asset. Once a decision has been made on your return to office date, it’s critical to share it with them as quickly as possible. Team members will need time to plan and process this information after a whirlwind of change last year. Create a way to keep communication lines open by creating a new Slack channel for questions, a form where they can submit questions, or organize a town hall to discuss. Employees will value openness and transparency as they prepare to return to the office with you.

Be prepared for concerns and different opinions

Like any other new policy or change, this transition will likely stir up some concerns or differences in opinions. Be prepared to hear what your employees are saying if they come to you with either. By showing compassion and letting them share, you can work together better to find a solution. It’s important to note that concerns pertaining to safety should always remain a top priority to your organization and leadership team. 

Have new policies written up for reference

New policies will have to be deployed to meet local government requirements on building capacity, PPE, and social distancing as we return to the office and continue to navigate the new way we work. Employees are going to ask about remote work and how often they need to report to the office. Have all of those answers ready and the new policies written up prior to any announcement so you can provide that information immediately. Also, consider publishing these answers using a communications platform, intranet, or employee app so employees can revisit the latest information. 

Share in-office changes

If your organization is making physical changes to the office, tell your team. Many organizations are making the change from assigned seating to hot-desking. Others require teams to sit in pods to minimize how many people they interact with while in the office. These are all significant changes. Employees will need training on new technology, and new policies may take some getting used to. Start talking about it now to address questions or get feedback and to minimize as much confusion as possible. 

Create a collaborative communication plan

Just like the pandemic, once your organization returns to the office, this initiative doesn’t magically end. Make it clear that the return to the office is a fluid, ongoing process. Feedback will be vital once employees are in the office again to ensure current policies are adequate or if there is room for improvement. Remind your team members that their voice is valuable and give them the tools to help them share their point of view. If you don’t currently have an employee communication application, this would be an excellent opportunity to consider one. 

Your team members will appreciate transparency as you navigate through these changes. Be sure you have all of the tools you need to return your team to the office successfully. If there’s something missing in your return to office plans like space reservation technology, digital signage, or an employee app, Appspace can help.