With many states relaxing their shelter in place orders, the conversation is quickly shifting from furloughs and layoffs to reopening and returning to work. What that will look like for each business will be vary. However, we know that the workplace will be much different, with health and safety protocols being top of mind for the foreseeable future.

Employees will be returning to a very different workplace than anything they’ve seen before. New health and safety protocols, office layouts, and the widespread use of personal protective equipment will all be part of the new workplace and take some adjustment.
To effectively navigate these changes will require employers to lead with empathy, while simultaneously working to boost morale and create a sense of unity and normalcy. It not only comes down to providing information and assurance with a strong communication and change management plan. It’s equally important to show employees they’re appreciated and supported.
This is where a “welcome back to work” strategy can go a long way to show employees how much they mean to your organization. Consider these tips to help inform your return to work strategy: 

1. Send a welcome back email before employees come back

For employees, returning to work right now is almost like a first day experience, given the new rules and protocols that will need to be followed. To head off any anxiety as to what employees should expect, consider sending them an email a few days before they come back. Here’s a template that outlines what your email might include, including safety protocols and words of encouragement.

2.  Revisit and revise your wellness initiatives

Employee wellbeing will be an even bigger priority in the new workplace. It’s important to remind your employees of the benefits and services already in place. However, it’s just as important to consider additional resources to encourage a healthy lifestyle.  A wellness challenge, in-office health screenings, or workshops that encourage mindful meditation are just a few examples of ways you can welcome employees back with a renewed commitment to ensuring their safety and wellbeing.

3.  Give small tokens of appreciation

We all know that a gift from an employer can go a long way towards boosting morale, enhancing the employee experience, and creating a renewed sense of connection to company culture. So, why not take that extra step to show your employees how much they mean to your organization? It doesn’t need to be a major investment. After all, it’s the little things that mean the most right now. Here are a four practical, budget-friendly gifts to consider:

Keep safety and wellbeing in view with custom posters

Health and safety posters issued by the CDC and OSHA will be must-haves. Why not complement those guidelines with custom posters that convey company messages? Ideas to consider include welcome back to work sentiments, health and safety reminders, and words of encouragement, strength, and perseverance.

Reconnect employees to company culture with apparel

Business casual went to very casual in no time when employees were working from home.  Keep the casual trend going with comfortable branded t-shirts and hoodies employees can wear in the office. Add a tailored “welcome back” message to help colleagues feel connected to each other and the company’s culture.

Encourage cleanliness and hygiene with wellness items

Sanitizers and disinfectants will be located all around the office, especially high traffic areas. But what about at individual work stations? By giving employees personal hand sanitizers and packs of disinfecting wipes, employers will demonstrate the company’s commitment to keeping employees healthy and their work spaces clean.

Demonstrate a commitment to health with custom face coverings

Many employers will be asking employees to wear personal protective equipment such as face coverings when they return to work. Some employers will be requiring it and will need to provide them to employees. While disposable masks might be the way to go for some, high quality, reusable cloth face masks and bandannas are more comfortable and last much longer. Want follow the latest employer trend? Consider adding a company logo or a message unique to the organization that lets employees know their health and safety are being looked after.

4. Host a welcome back breakfast, lunch, or happy hour

While employees have interacted with each other on screens over the last few months, nothing compares to the real deal of getting together — while observing social distancing guidelines — to help employees reconnect to each other and company culture.   

Final thoughts and further reading

Whatever your welcome back to work strategy looks like, it’s important to make sure your staff knows just how essential they really are to your organization. Doing so will go a long way towards helping them feel safe, supported, and appreciated in what will be a challenging time of transition. For more information on returning to work, check out the following articles:

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