How Should Managers Deal With Bringing Employees Back To The Office?

Different approaches have to be taken to get workers to come back
Different approaches have to be taken to get workers to come back
Image Credit: Brenda Kochevar

There is no question that the Covid-19 pandemic changed everything. One day we were all in the office getting along and then the next day everyone was at home using Zoom to video conference with each other. As life slowly starts to try to get back to normal, managers have a real challenge on their hands. The Covid-19 virus has not gone away and yet we’d still like to restart our normal office interactions. What’s the best way to go about doing this?

Attempting A Restart

As parts of the economy attempt to reopen, managers are taking various approaches to getting people back to work as coronavirus infections surge. With more than 3.3 million confirmed cases nationwide and a death toll topping 135,000, managers say they are operating under unprecedented circumstances with no universal guidelines, making it difficult to balance workers’ safety and financial exigencies after months of inactivity.

One of the biggest questions that managers will be asked by the members of their team is why is it necessary to come back to the office? For many companies staying home until a vaccine is available isn’t an option for the company. The effects of the pandemic could cost the company a great deal. In addition, managers know that limiting workers to teleconferences and video meetings makes it impossible to tap into the creativity and productivity generated by office encounters.

Managers are going to have use their manager skills to deal with some of the very basic issues that relate to attempting to not catch the Covid-19 virus. This will require answering questions like if employees have to wear masks in common areas. As the Covid-19 threat level grows, managers may require all employees and contractors to wear face coverings in common areas, when people weren’t sitting at their desks or in meetings where social distancing is inadequate.

Next Steps In Dealing With Covid-19

One of the toughest things that managers may have to do is to encourage team members to not to criticize leadership decisions. Managers will need to routinely evaluate and adjust plans and protocols based on team member feedback and authorities’ guidance. Managers need to survey employees while providing weekly updates through internal videos, podcasts and virtual meetings. If it is possible, managers should provide social-distancing assessment tools, mobile apps for health screening and, of course, an email address for employee feedback.

Managers need to understand that there may be employees who are most at risk for catching the virus. In these cases, team members who live with or are themselves medically vulnerable need to be able to request the company’s high-risk designation to work remotely, after submitting documentation from their health-care providers, in line with the Americans With Disabilities Act.

Just to make a complicated situation even more complicated, there is the issue of what parents are to do with their children if the parents are trying to come back to work and there is no adequate child care available for their children. Managers need to create policies that will permit primary caregivers of children attending closed schools or day care to be able to work remotely for an additional period of time in order to find alternate child care following a business unit’s transition back to the office.

What All Of This Means For You

There is no doubt that the Covid-19 virus has upended just about everything having to do with the workplace. Most offices allowed their workers to work from home for a time. However, now that time has passed and living with the virus has become more of a routine thing, many businesses are trying to once again open their offices for business. This places managers in the difficult position of having to work with the team members as they try to find their way back into the office.

The challenge that managers are facing is that there are no universal guidelines for the best way to reopen an office when a pandemic is going on. Team members may be asking why it is necessary to come back to the office and managers will be required to let them know that there are types of important interactions that can only occur in the office. Managers will be responsible for communicating what the safety procedures are for people who are in the office. The plans for restarting the office will have to be flexible and will need to be adjusted based on current events. Team members who are most at risk to catch the virus or who have family members who are risk will need to be permitted to work from home for a longer period of time. Additionally, managers need to understand the challenges that parents will face in getting child care services.

There is no manager training for dealing with restarting an office while a pandemic is still going on. Managers are going to have to keep their eyes open and make the best judgements that they can using the information that is available to them. We need to be able to balance the company’s needs with the individual needs of each of the members of our team. How we deal with this situation is something that the members of our team are going to remember for a long time. This may turn out to be a team building experience for everyone. We need to not only make the right decisions, but we also have to make the best decisions for our team.

– Dr. Jim Anderson Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World IT Management Skills™

Question For You: How should managers deal with team members who don’t want to come back into the office?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

So if I understand how this story has unfolded, we were all going into the office and working when the Covid-19 virus struck. The next day we found ourselves at home using Zoom to video conference with the people that we had been working side-by-side with. This was a massive upheaval for everyone especially managers. There has never been any manager training for how to deal with something like this. However, we all seemed to get over it and we’ve all adjusted to the new world order. Is this the way that things are going to be going forward?