How to Reopen Your Workplace Safely & Successfully

Create a reopening plan that prioritizes your team

August 26, 2021

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Fall is fast approaching and many offices are planning to reopen. This can be overwhelming and stressful for leadership as well as for the employees. It’s an extreme change after a year and a half of working from home. Many companies were planning on reopening after Labor Day, but with the Delta variant spreading, plans are changing.

With so much uncertainty, here is what workers say they are most concerned about when it comes to returning to the office:

49% of workers are concerned about COVID-19 exposure and infection
46% of workers are worried they’ll have less work flexibility
43% of workers fear they’ll have less work-life balance

We’ve written the below guide to help you make the best decisions when it comes to hybrid work schedules and hopefully calm your employees’ fears.

Find a Hybrid Model that Works for Your Organization

Research from Stanford shows that around 80% of companies plan to “reopen” with a hybrid work model. In this scenario, employees will work from the office 3 days a week and work from home two days, or some variation. Additionally, a study conducted by ADP Research Institute found that a hybrid model helps ease the transition back into the workplace, making employees feel more comfortable while they adjust to working in person again.

There is no one-size-fits-all model for reopening and implementing a hybrid plan. Every company will be different because of size, location, and culture. To ensure the transition goes as smoothly as possible, survey your employees! Interview them or conduct focus groups to determine their priorities and comfort levels in terms of returning to work. Employers need to focus on designing an individualized approach to post-pandemic work that fits both their organization’s culture and their employees’ preferences.

Employees have proven that they can get their jobs done at home, which may make it difficult for business leaders to require them to come back full-time in-person. Flexibility is key if you want to retain and attract talent. 58% of workers said they would look for a new job if they were no longer allowed to work remotely. In this hot job market, if you are not offering some remote working opportunities, your employees won’t hesitate to look elsewhere.

Tip: Whether you are staying 100% remote or moving to a combination of remote and in-office, make sure you have your remote onboarding policies and procedures in place!

Implement COVID-19 Protocols

The Delta variant surge makes everything uncertain and the idea of going back to the office even more stressful for employees. Communication is key. Make sure your team knows about the safety mandates you have in place to keep everyone healthy. Additionally, develop and communicate a contingency plan should your firm need to move back to fully remote.

Ignoring the current surge or the fact that your reopening plans may change will only make your employees feel uneasy about going back. Frequently update your workers as plans change and provide up-to-date information. Being transparent about your plans shows your employees you care about their wellbeing. Research done by Edelman showed that employer communication is viewed as the most credible source of information about COVID-19. Employees will be looking to leadership to keep them informed.

COVID-related health mandates include offices requiring mask-wearing at all times, proof of vaccination, or regular negative COVID tests. Many companies are requiring their employees to get the vaccine if they want to come back to work. Equinox, Facebook, Google, Morgan Stanley, and Saks are just a few examples of the many companies that are requiring proof of vaccination before employees are allowed back on company premises.

Which mandates you choose to put in place hinges on the sentiments of your employees (which you can gather through surveys, interviews, etc.) and the guidance of state, local and industry leaders. The sentiments of your employees matter greatly here because an outbreak is more likely if employees are opposed to mandates or requirements but continue to work in person. Knowing how your employees feel will help you determine which office health guidelines are necessary and if certain employees should continue to work remotely for the safety of their peers.

It’s also essential that all managers are on the same page about what the hybrid policy and health mandates are and enforcing them in the same way. One manager can’t require their team to come into the office daily while another manager allows their employees with the same set of tasks to work from home. This will lead to animosity between employees. Additionally, one manager can’t be lax about the mask mandate if one has been put in place. This will make employees feel unsafe and could risk a potential outbreak.

Encourage Vaccinations

Most companies are both encouraging and requiring vaccines in certain circumstances. Some are incentivizing employees to get it by offering paid days off, or cash bonuses. Many firms are requiring vaccines for employees who plan to return to the office or attend events.

You can also consider supplying at-home tests at a reduced cost for all employees regardless of vaccination status. Encouraging vaccinations for hesitant employees should come from a place of compassion and understanding for their feelings. Whether it’s a previous negative healthcare experience, distrust of the government, or misinformation, listen to their concerns while offering scientifically-backed information and education.

Prepare for Potential Pushback

No matter which course you take (staying remote, hybrid, fully in-person) and which safety mandates you put in place, there will inevitably be pushback from some employees. When going through a major transition, you can’t make everyone happy. Ahead of any major announcements, spend time running through different scenarios and determine a response plan for each.

Once you have surveyed your employees, consulted stakeholders and health experts, determined your reopening plan, and considered potential backlash, you’re ready to announce your plan to employees. Clear and honest messaging that explains why you are taking the steps you are taking is the best route. Make sure HR and other relevant leaders are prepared for the plethora of questions that will certainly come in as they do with any big change.

Keep in mind, your back-to-office plan will be top of mind for candidates as well. The clearer your path forward, the more comfortable prospects will feel accepting job offers with your organization. Make sure recruiters have a solid understanding of your strategy and can communicate it clearly to candidates.


Check out our other blog posts for more talent acquisition tips and insights into recruiting trends.

About Fetcher

At Fetcher, our mission is to introduce companies to the people who will help them change the world. Our full-service, recruiting automation platform automates those repetitive, top-of-funnel tasks, so you can focus more on candidate engagement & team collaboration. Simplify Sourcing. Optimize Outreach. Hire Top Talent. Learn more at fetcher.ai.

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