The last year has been challenging for many obvious reasons, including the ever-changing situation with policies regarding telework, or work-from-home (WFH). The ability of managers and employees to remain flexible has challenged everyone to remain resilient. Eventually many, if not most, employees will return to the office environment in some form.
Business leaders must do more than manage the logistics of returning to work. Winston Churchill once said, “The difference between mere management and leadership is communication.” This is a moment when managers must be leaders. This means managing people, not just process.
Communication is more than simply informing staff about policies and procedures. Effective communication also influences attitudes, promotes productivity and encourages employees in challenging times.
As managers prepare to welcome employees back to the office, keep these tips in mind to build trust and cooperation among team members.
Health and safety are first.
Your messages should always emphasize that the health and wellness of employees are the priorities in any policies and decisions. When you describe what is a policy or process, always be sure to add why that policy is in place.
The return to the office is complicated and probably won’t be perfectly smooth for any company. Be candid about this to build trust.
Put things in context.
Aside from the logistics details of when and how offices will open, be sure to explain how the plans align with overall company values and strategies.
People feel anxious and stressed, and need outlets where they can share concerns. Encourage feedback and questions. This helps to catch and stop rumors early on, and may also highlight problems that need to be addressed or fixed.
Keep communication frequent, even if you don’t have a specific update. Celebrate people’s accomplishments, share resources for managing stress, or answer an employee’s question in a public way. These strategies can strengthen the connection even if there is nothing “new” to share.
Encouraging an attitude of “we are in this together” can help retain team cohesion and cooperation through these challenging times.