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Preparing Employees to Return to the Workplace

It’s been a challenging year for small businesses in California. Forced closings driven by the pandemic and the resulting economic downturn forced thousands to close their doors. Unfortunately, many are closed for good.

Businesses in San Diego that managed to stay open now face a new obstacle: getting employees to return to work. After a year of working from home or collecting unemployment benefits, the task is easier said than done. But it’s not impossible.

The following are six tips for preparing employees to return to the workplace:

Take the initiative
Don’t wait for others to make the first move. Put your PhD in Leadership to good use and take the initiative. Send a company-wide email informing employees of the upcoming shift back to the workplace. Make the announcement at least two weeks beforehand. That way, you give your workers time to reconfigure their schedules and plan accordingly.

Explain the reasons
Don’t leave your workforce hanging. Take the time to explain why it’s essential for everyone to return to the workplace. Those who’ve been able to remain productive while working from home will need to understand why their presence is required back at the office. If you struggle to come up with valid reasons why employees need to return to the workplace, reconsider the decision.

Prioritize their safety
Even though most of your workers will be vaccinated, your business premises still needs to meet current CDC guidelines for workplace health and safety. Proper precautions against infection are especially critical for bars, restaurants, and anywhere else food is prepared and consumed on-site. Doing so will make it much easier to convince employees to come back to the workplace.

Listen to feedback
Your employees have a right to be concerned for their health and safety. They also have a good reason to resent getting told to “go back to work” if they’ve been working from home without any issues. Acknowledge their feelings and consider their opinions. There could be ways to reach a compromise, such as only asking workers to come in for three days a week with the option to work from home the other days.

Ease into it
After more than a year of working from home, it’s a lot to ask employees to shift back to “normal” in a few weeks. Rather than expect workers to immediately go from one to the other, consider a more gradual transition especially for new hires who were recently unemployed. For example, you could establish a volunteer-based system for getting one-third of the workforce to come in each day, with small but significant bonuses offered to those willing to show up for the first month or so. Providing options and incentives helps make your employees feel valued and validated, reducing work-related anxiety and making it more likely they’ll play ball.

Make it worthwhile
Business owners in San Diego will have a hard time replicating the convenience of working from home. With that said, there are probably several ways you can tweak and optimize the workplace to make it more appealing to your employees. What’s more, an overhaul of benefits and bonuses to meet your workforce’s needs and wants could further help drive interest in returning to the workplace. Recognizing room for improvement is an essential trait of any business owner, and while that typically means squeezing pennies, it also means offering more to your employees.

After more than a year of disease-caused disruption, businesses in San Diego and across the rest of California are now primed to resume the pre-pandemic normal. However, the truth is there’s a new normal now. Business owners must adapt accordingly. In doing so, they move to improve the workplace and improve their operations in the process.