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Creating an Environment Employees Want to Come Back To in Five Easy (OK, Maybe Not-So-Easy) Steps

Now that vaccination rates are rising and COVID infection rates are falling, many organizations are planning their return to office (RTO). And they are struggling with how to help employees move their now well-established home-based work lives back to their corporate offices.

We’re here to help with a starter guide for RTO employee communications:

1. Gauge employee sentiment.

You’ve determined that a key part of your business strategy involves having your employees back in the office. But how do they feel about returning? Do they understand the “why” behind your company’s RTO? Once you have some answers here, use them to develop a robust communications strategy that addresses their concerns, while also sharing the important reasons for bringing them back.

2. Prep your people leaders.

Your people leaders – whether they’re office employees or mid-level supervisors – are critical to a smooth transition back into the office. Involve your people leaders early and often in the return to office process to serve as champions for change, as well as a trusted support for employees who may be anxious.

3. Celebrate!

Embrace the excitement of getting the team back together with a special event. Plan parties for each location – think: bigger than a cake-in-the-breakroom party. Make it a big deal! Organize fun games with prizes, social hours, entertainment or other face-to-face activities to encourage employees' excitement and make your return to office a rousing success.

4. Use this experience to grow.

During this long year of working from home, your employees have grown and adapted. Your organization has, too. Now is the time to take a hard look at your company’s culture and make any changes needed to create a culture where employees feel valued and respected. Need help? Your friends over here at Small Potatoes Communications just happen to specialize in cultural transformation. We’re here to help!

5. Be human.

Returning to the office will probably be a messy process with plenty of awkwardness for employees and leadership alike. This is new territory, and everyone will have an opinion. Not everyone will love every decision your organization makes. Expect a lot of questions about why they need to start commuting again after a year working from home. This resistance may seem daunting, and it’s important to listen and acknowledge your employees’ concerns. Be empathetic as you share the business case for your RTO. Most importantly: be open to exceptions, if they are needed.

Our final word of advice for returning to the office? Always be prepared...for things to change. Things can change in an instant; so, it’s crucial to be clear in your communications to your employees.


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