Getting Back to Work Help Page

Whether you are navigating rehiring your laid-off employees, hiring new employees to expedite your rebuilding process, or searching for advice handling complicated workforce issues, this page can help you reestablish your operations. SOCHE will update this site as we determine areas of managing employees and returning businesses that need resources.

Tips for Returning to Work:

Facilitating Success and Boosting Employee Confidence after the Stay-at-Home Order is Lifted

April 23, 2020


Skip To Specific Tips:
Maintain Open Communication
Clarify Job Descriptions, Policies, and Processes
Be Patient and Flexible
Facilitate Financial, Physical, and Mental Health
Encourage Socializing
Value Your Employees

COVID-19 has put a severe wrench in plans worldwide. The process of returning to normalcy will take time. Employees are the key to successfully returning your business to normal. A seamless return requires keeping employees safe, comfortable, and motivated. Below are tips that you can implement to alleviate stress, boost morale, and increase productivity for both you and your employees to bounce back.


Maintain Open Communication

Communication is essential to building respect and trust between you and your employees. Being stuck at home has creative advantages. The time away gives employees clarity about processes and is a catalyst for innovative new ideas. If you have an open line of communication with your employees, they will gladly share these useful ideas with you. Having open lines of communication requires:

  • Handle Feedback and Suggestions with Grace. Request and accept constructive feedback regularly. Being open and excited to hear new ideas encourages innovation that will benefit your business processes. Allow your employee to explain their plan, it may be what your business has been missing!
  • Ask Your Employees to Share. Ask your employees to speak candidly with you about their struggles, needs, ideas, and life events. Being open to talking with employees builds a trusting relationship and provides comfort and respect within the workplace.
  • Provide Feedback to Your Employees. Offer feedback about completed projects, congratulate on awards and successes, both personal and work-related, and thank your employees for good work both in a group and individually. Ask employees what could change to improve performance in the future.

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Clarify Job Descriptions, Policies, Processes

Employees have been out of work for over a month. While some can bounce right back into their positions, others may be confused. Any confusion during the workday will heighten anxieties and will hurt production. Here are ways to prevent confusion and promote confidence among your employees:

  • Clarify and Remind Roles. If one person in the process chain is confused, others are likely confused as well. Review the overall process with your employees and review each job description together. Encourage them to ask for clarification both before they start their first day back and anytime during the workday.
  • Play to Your Employee’s Strengths. Your employees may have acquired new skills while away or may have found ideas to improve your existing process. If an employee has returned to work with useful expertise or new approaches, the timing is perfect for implementing their plan or reconsidering their job description.
  • Share Specific Goals. Employees find ways to work together when they have a common and clear goal to rally behind. You may want to share a general goal like, “be at 100% as soon as possible,” but that goal is hard for an employee to visualize or track. Share specifics, such as “produce at least 50% of the previous volume by June 1.” Update employees on progress and reward them for success.

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Be Patient and Flexible

COVID-19 is not going away just because we are back at work. Be realistic about the speed of your return and the availability of employees. Schedules are complicated, with childcare facilities closed and appointments pushed back. Here are ways that you can help everyone adjust to the new norm while minimizing stress:

  • Allow Part-Time or Flexible Schedules. If an employee needs to work flexible hours, work with them to determine a plan. Employees could start working on a part-time schedule and slowly increase hours as they go.
  • Continue Work from Home where Possible. If an employee can work from home, they should be allowed to do so and continue to prevent unnecessary contamination.
  • Toggle Schedules. If employees must be present at work, you may want to toggle schedules as much as possible to maintain employee distance. Not only will this help prevent community spread, but it will make your employees feel comfortable while working.
  • Hire Interns. You may need additional help due to scheduling complications. Interns can fill the gaps created by shorter work hours. Additionally, they can complete tasks that fall through the cracks. 

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Facilitate Financial, Physical, and Mental Health

You and your employees have had a rough go since March. Being sensitive to employee hardship and making help available to them will not only help them to continue to be productive but will improve your overall workplace environment. Here are ways you can support your employees’ financial, physical, and mental health:

  • Remind Employees of Available Benefits. Some benefits providers offer free services like financial advising, telehealth, and video counseling. Remind your employees if these services are available in their benefits packages. Offer time during the workday for your employees to meet with these experts.
  • Give Employees Options. Provide employees lists of public resources that can help them recover. Aid organizations are available from the city-level to federal. Create a list for your employees to access these services and continue to inform employees as you learn of more.
  • Accommodate Financial and Health-Related Appointments. Financial, physical, and mental health providers’ scheduling options will be tight through the rest of 2020—support employees ’ health by respecting their appointments. Allow them flexibility with work hours and assure them that their financial and health arrangements receive top priority.
  • Alleviate Employee Anxiety. Pandemics are scary, and employees will be understandably anxious. If an employee does not feel safe in the workplace, find a solution that will work for both employer and employee. The answer may mean moving hours, allowing work from home, or giving extra space in the office.

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Encourage Socializing

We have all had a workplace friend that brightens up the workday. These relationships are crucial to helping your employees adjust and feel better about any work situation. Here are ways you can foster team bonding and friendships:

  • Leave Time for Chats. Chatting at work has a bad reputation, but it is an essential way for employees to connect and strengthen the team. Employees have been isolated for over a month and will be excited to see other people. Allow them time to exercise their social muscles.
  • Take Team Walks Outside. Team walks are a way to change your surroundings while staying 6 feet apart. Walking outside gives rise to human conversations that employees need to feel comfortable and bonded at a team.
  • Encourage Hangouts Outside of Work. Spending time outside of work might mean giving time on Fridays for happy hour, or not discouraging social interaction outside the workplace. For many employees, their workplace friends are their only friends. The stronger bonds formed while spending time outside of work will help keep your employees happy and present.

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Value Your Employees

Employees need to know that you are grateful for their presence to feel motivated and secure. Employees feel loyal and excited to work for an employer that expresses appreciation. Here are some ways to value your employees:

  • Cut the Micromanagement. When you distrust your employees to complete their tasks without supervision, you are telling them you do not appreciate their intelligence or work ethic. You must specify goals and deadlines and provide employees with the tools to be successful. Still, when you critique every step, employees will only be working to meet the minimum requirements rather than to work as effectively as possible.
  • Encourage Young Employees. Invite interns or young employees to share their ideas first in meetings. Not only will it help them feel like a valued member of the team, but allowing them to speak first makes others feel more comfortable sharing their ideas.
  • Express Gratitude. Thank your employees for returning to work. Praise them within their teams and individually. When an employee has done good work, tell them often. Expressing gratitude and satisfaction to your employees boosts their confidence at work, improves their mood, and makes them eager to perform better and better.
  • Reward Great Work. Telling employees when they do great work is essential, but showing them is even better. When you reward an employee for a job well done, others will feel encouraged to do great work and receive a reward. Rewards could include gift cards, paid time off, bonuses, or lunch.

We have a long road ahead. While employers and employees are easing their way back to normal, the way to a triumphant return is in successfully managing human factors. Your employees will do excellent work when they are under excellent management, and your business will bounce back that much faster.

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