At some point, whether it’s now, in September or after the new year, employees will be returning to the workplace (unless your team has decided to go full remote work!). Whatever your plan is for employees returning, it’s going to be worth spending some thinking about how you will welcome employees back. Employees will have all different feelings about returning to work. Some might be totally ready, some may be fearful and anxious and others may outright prefer their work from home situation. But, it’s time to welcome employees back into the office in some capacity, and one way your organization can do so is via a Welcome Letter, the way you may if you were welcoming an employee back from maternity leave or sabbatical.
Communication is always key, especially during times like these. The purpose of this welcome letter would be to give employees an update on any new policies and procedures that they need to be aware of, whether in written form, video form, or maybe even both! Being transparent and clear about changes is going to help employees adjust a bit easier knowing that their employer has their back. Here are a few things that might be good to cover in a welcome letter.
- Welcome employees back to the workplace. Whether via written format or video, this is an opportunity for the CEO to welcome employees back and address the re-entry process. If employees are arriving in phases or have rotating work-from-home schedules, this is a great opportunity to share that plan with everyone.
- Address employee safety. Next, acknowledge how you plan to keep employees safe. Maybe you’re placing a notice at the entrance directing all employees to wash their hands/ sanitize upon entry. If you’re providing personal protective equipment (PPE), let employees knows how they can obtain it. If you are installing additional hand sanitizer stations, share their new locations. If you’re implementing a daily screening assessment and temperature checks, take time to explain the process and why this is necessary. It’s important to share this information with employees before they arrive, especially for those employees who are feeling anxious and overwhelmed. A well-thought out plan for employee safety could help to alleviate employee fear and other concerns.
- Discuss social distancing in the workplace. Every office layout is different, and new social distancing protocols likely have been put into place while employees were away. Maybe plexiglass has been installed, or arrows indicating travel in one direction around the office have been placed on the floor (like we see at the grocery store), or the number of employees allowed in the break-room has been reduced. Whatever those changes are, communicate them to employees before they get to work so that they’re prepared for and aware of these changes, and nothing comes as as big surprise.
- Share the break-room situation. Many offices have break-rooms or kitchens where employees can go to get away from their desk to socialize and grab a snack, a cup of coffee or eat lunch. Some break-rooms have free snacks (bulk/community snacks, pre-COVID) and commonly touched appliances like a microwave, coffee maker and refrigerator. If changes are being made to the break room, ie: removal of snacks entirely, or replacing bulk snacks with individually wrapped snacks, or new rules pertaining to sanitizing chairs, tables and any handles, it’s the perfect time to let employees know what is expected of them in shared spaces to keep each other safe.
- Offer a training session. Your organization may have new rules regarding client/customer interactions and third party vendors. If this is the case, it may be a good idea to consider developing microlearning sessions that cover these new guidelines that employees can view before they get back to work.
- Explain the consequences of non-compliance. While none of this is fun, these new policies and procedures are put in place to protect employees and businesses. While many of these items, i.e. social distancing and providing PPE, may be State or local mandate, some other new regulations implemented are likely done in the interest of the employee and any clients, so employees should be told in advance if there will be any consequences as a result of non-compliance.
- Let employees know where they can direct questions or concerns.It’s difficult to plan for every single situation, as much is still unknown. Situation may arise, and employees should feel comfortable asking questions (and getting answers), so let them know who they can contact.
The intent of this type of letter or video is to welcome employees, maybe it’s a great time to once more applaud them for their great work and effort while working from home during a pandemic, and to give them an update on what’s changed during their time away. It’s an opportunity for organizations to let employees know that their safety is a top priority, and that they’ve spent time planning for their employees to return to the office.