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I ran across an article in my Morning Brew newsletter titled, “Nearly 50% of people are anxious about getting back to normal, pre-pandemic life – here’s how to cope”. I totally get it.
Over the past few weeks, Mr. Bartender and I have started talking about what we’re calling “re-entry”. You know, the plan to re-enter regular life as in dining in a restaurant, taking a vacation, getting a manicure, going to a store, etc. I’m sure we’re not the only people who are planning activities once they get vaccinated.
BTW – just in case you’re interested, our plan isn’t to flip a switch and just start doing everything. With me being an over planner and Mr. Bartender’s fondness for spreadsheets, we’ve developed something that resembles a Gantt chart for re-entry. We’re planning small activities and as we get more comfortable, we’ll do more. I’m confident that some of you are laughing as you read this, and I’m totally cool with that. I’m laughing as I’m typing it. But it works for us and that’s what matters.
But it occurred to me as we’re having these conversations about our re-entry, that employees are doing the same thing. They’re thinking about their re-entry not only on a personal level but a professional one. I’ve talked with people who haven’t seen their workplace in a year. That’s not a typo. They haven’t seen their office for one year. It made me realize that organizations need to think about the re-entry plan for their employees. Here are a few things to consider.
Give employees plenty of notice. It’s tempting to write an announcement that everyone should start returning to the office once they get their vaccine or on a particular date. Think about timing. A staggered approach could be beneficial to the operation and helpful to employees. Give employees plenty of notice so they can make arrangements to return to the workplace (and not be at home all day).
Consider relaxing the dress code. I’ve somewhat jokingly said that I’ve been trying to figure out a way to incorporate graphic t-shirts and sneakers into my workplace business attire. But it’s true. Many of us haven’t worn business attire in a long time. If you’re accustomed to a more formal dress code, maybe ease into it. Lots of organizations let employees wear casual attire over the summer months. Timing could be good for that.
Let employees reconnect with their workspace. Like I mentioned, some employees haven’t seen their office for months. Organizations should give employees at least a day, maybe two, to go through their office space. Open drawers, find things, and possibly even throw some stuff away. This could be a great opportunity for employees to start their re-entry with a nice clean, organized office.
Provide opportunities to reconnect with colleagues. Yes, employees have seen each other on Zoom calls. It’s not the same in the workplace. Consider offering networking time for employees to just catch up. Give managers a few icebreakers so they can include reconnecting time to the start of meetings. Small talk is important to relationship building and employees will need it as part of their re-entry.
Be prepared to slow the pace of the workday. The items I’ve mentioned above are necessary, but I won’t lie – they will slow productivity in the short term. Think of it as an investment in long-term productivity. Giving employees an opportunity to reconnect with their workplace will successfully start their re-entry. And for organizations that are trying to get everyone back in the office working at pre-pandemic levels – this helps the goal.
I’m sure some of you might be saying, “These seem like very small things.” And they are. Organizations that take the time to do the small stuff during employee re-entry are the ones that will see long-term success. Don’t rush this step. The result of a successful employee re-entry program is better organizational economic recovery.
Image captured by Sharlyn Lauby at the 34th Street Graffiti Wall in Gainesville, FL39