We’re starting to see companies return employees to office workplaces. As that happens, reactions will be varied. Some are ready to be back with their colleagues. Others are reluctant to return—perhaps they’ve come to enjoy working remotely or maybe they’re not comfortable expanding their “bubble” yet. And many others are somewhere in-between. With reactions that span the spectrum, internal communicators  have their jobs cut out for them. Here are five ways to ensure you hit the mark: 

1. Set expectations

Discuss your return-to-work plan with employees. Outline specific guidelines that will be followed. Add visual cues—images and diagrams—to help communicate new protocol and practices. 

Tip: Managers are key to communicating expectations, so prepare them to assist you. Train managers on safety protocols as well as how to do wellness check-ins, have conversations about comfort levels and ways to help everyone feel safe. 

2. Keep employee safety a focus

Obviously, this is everyone’s top priority. So after you outline new protocols and practices, communicate them often. Consider a mix of communications based on your audience: an online guide, posters, intranet banners, articles, texts, etc. 

Tip: Share the basic protocols in advance before employees are back. This gives them time to absorb the new information and get used to it. 

3. Give employees a voice

For many, the return is stressful; and this can impact the work environment in multiple ways. One way to help people manage through this is by creating a feedback mechanism—online forum, hotline, virtual feedback sessions—where employees can voice concerns, share ideas and be heard. It’s also important to be clear about where employees can go for questions. 

Tip: Giving employees a voice allows you to keep a gauge on the employee “temperature” and how they’re coping with the change. It informs you if new strategies or communications are needed. 

4. Encourage self-care

Employees also have a responsibility for creating the right return-to-work environment, and the best way they can do that is by caring for themselves. Self-care goes a long way in helping us deal with change. Encourage employees to do things like take a short walk or another mini-break to clear their heads. Managers should also invite them to come and share if additional support is needed. And, of course, EAP is a great resource to regularly remind employees that they can take advantage of—often for FREE. 

Tip: The best way to encourage self-care is for employees to see leadership—at all levels—model it. 

5. Repeat, repeat, repeat

Employees are bombarded with messages on a daily basis, so repeating messages regularly and on different platforms helps reinforce guidelines and communicates your commitment. 

Tip: People learn differently, and a large part of communication is about how people take in and consume information. Use a variety of approaches so you reach people in the ways that resonate most with them. 

Together is our favorite place to be.

Synergy, creativity and collaboration happens when people come together—and it happens at a greater rate when people connect in person. Internal communicators are doing more than sharing return-to-work policies; you’re reinvigorating teams and company cultures that allow people to come back and be their best together.

Reach out at helloindy@westcomm.com or follow us @westcomm on LinkedIn for more insights.


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