After months of mandatory quarantine, businesses are getting a cautious green light to reopen. In fact, the percentage of businesses that were physically open in June jumped by 16 points when compared to mid-April. That’s good news for you, but it’s also a reminder that you shouldn’t jump headfirst into reintegration.
Returning to the office requires careful consideration because the world has changed. Covid-19 has permanently affected how people feel about gathering in communal spaces, and many hesitate to leave the perceived safety of their home offices. In New York City, for instance, businesses were recently permitted to reopen, but walkways, subways and parks in the business district have remained sparse, and companies like Facebook have begun planning for some workers to remain remote permanently.
To accommodate the needs of your people and customers, you must adopt a philosophy of unwavering communication. Otherwise, you risk widespread noncompliance and team disengagement. Just 43% of workers feel their employers have placed employees’ needs ahead of financial considerations during the pandemic. Likewise, only 29% believe CEOs have risen to the unique challenges of navigating Covid-19.
That means your next moves are critical.
Crafting a Stronger Communication Plan
As a CEO during the first pandemic in a century, you have the opportunity to show empathy and strength — this moment represents a chance to thoughtfully guide everyone into normalcy. The key to taking advantage of your position is by communicating effectively.
Of course, deciding what and how to communicate as you guide your brand’s return depends on your company’s unique workflow and office layout. You might have to follow specific recommendations per your industry’s governing body (and even accept that some workers can’t come back immediately).
But make no mistake: You need to become a stellar communicator throughout the process. Start by adopting the following strategies.
1. Set up a centralized communications portal. It’s easy for employees to ignore or lose emails and text messages. When team members have one place to view mandatory compliance videos, read updated protocols, take training modules on safety measures, and receive real-time updates, they feel empowered. As a benefit to you, a centralized portal will provide one trusted source for messaging.
2. Solicit feedback while creating a reintegration plan. You have a reintegration vision. Regardless, seek input to avoid unintentional tone-deafness. Remember: Some employees might be more or less relaxed about returning. What if a worker can’t fathom sitting in a small conference room with team members — even with masks? How can you help supervisors understand how to carry out their work during this new normal? Knowing everyone’s individual preferences before reopening can reduce awkwardness.
3. Put a beta communications plan in place. Once you’ve incorporated employees’ feedback into your plan, put it into motion slowly — and bake in enough time for employees to mentally prepare and accommodate routine changes. During the first weeks of reintegration, make yourself omnipresent through town hall meetings and intranet updates. Ideally, you should be there emotionally, if not physically.
4. Keep transparent communications flowing. After business hits a steady rhythm, you might be tempted to ease up on communications. Don’t. Covid-19 has been a roller coaster of surprises, and you’re better off overcommunicating; unforeseen challenges are almost sure to arise. After all, emerging changes in local or state norms and guidelines could force you to modify your plans.
Your employees want to work. At the same time, they want to feel secure. By making centralized communications a priority during your business’s reopening, you’ll ensure your people can focus less on pandemic-related concerns and more on building a cohesive, trusting culture.