Welcome Employees Back to “The New Normal” with the S.E.A. Strategy

We have been through rough seas the past few months. Over time, we have become better and better at navigating the high waves by utilizing communications tools, adopting safety measures and adapting as best we can.

Nearly every industry has been impacted by COVID-19 with up to 195 million people having lost their jobs globally. We have all heard the term “new normal” thrown around numerous times, but what is it exactly?

We have to prepare ourselves for coming back to work and recreating the standard. Essentially, all businesses will have to re-onboard their employees. 68% of companies don’t have an onboarding guide to follow. This will either pose a challenge or an opportunity. You get to choose.

We see it as an opportunity and therefore devised the S.E.A. strategy. It will help you adapt to the current changes and prepare you to effectively communicate with your employees as you steer your businesses through these fluctuating seas in hopes for smoother waters.

S. E. A. (Safety, Ease, Awareness) is what you need to consider as you implement new processes in preparation for coming back to work to the “new normal.”

S. (SAFETY)

Communicate how each employee contributes to company safety

Your employees need to know they play a larger part in developing a new flow in your company. Their actions directly impact your internal livelihood and overall economy. We have just seen this on a global scale, where one case of Coronavirus quickly spread to millions. Similar parallel exists within your company; help them see this and tell them what actions are expected from them at work, home and in between to keep everyone safe.

Prepare a future-minded health & safety plan

A similar viral spread happened 100+ years ago, making it seem like we may not have to live through another… but, we cannot be so sure. Think of a plan in case a similar situation occurs 6, 12, 24 months from now and ask yourself: How will our company react? How will we reach our employees quickly and effectively? Will we follow similar restrictions and adjustments as for COVID-19? Think ahead and be prepared. This way, in case we are surprised by another unfortunate blindsiding virus, you will have be able to respond in a much more productive way. When composed, share this plan with your employees so they can help you react quickly and know what to expect.

Define changes in your employees’ day-to-day workday

Perhaps your employees gather close together for lunch everyday? This would have to change to provide a safe distance in accordance with your government’s policy. Or maybe there are tools they share? If any are used near the nose, mouth or eyes, this process would have to be rethought for safety measures and to prevent spreading of germs. Try to map out their daily engagement with other employees and see where you need to enforce a new procedure or a more restricted way of gathering or co-sharing resources.

E. (EASE)

Welcome employees back with genuine empathy

It is important that all communication comes with a stronger emotional charge to ease employees into this new form of normal. Consider starting a meeting with a check-in before diving into the business and strategy. It is the leaders’ job to internally communicate with a heightened sense of humanity in these difficult times. Take some of your learnings for well-being tactics from the “work from home” days into the “new normal.”

Recognize that COVID-19 uniquely impacted each employee

Each individual will have experienced the same set of facts in their own personal way. Some have been rocked by the virus more than others. Be empathetic and recognize they may need mental stability just as much as they need to be aware of the factual systematic changes to their role overall. Best case scenario is to implement psychological support if you have the capacity, as Starbucks did.

Open the floor for questions

Questions will continue to arise as you welcome teams back — here are some key questions employees need answered to feel safe. Tell them the process to gain answers takes patience from their side because much is still unknown. However, be proactive in creating a system where they can approach leadership with any pressing inquiry. During the Coronavirus, we saw that having a company-wide social channel specific to only COVID-19 communication worked well for our customers. Consider creating something alike with a Coming Back to Work theme where employees can openly ask questions, share concerns, share stories etc. all about the recent changes and re-entering regular work.

A. (AWARENESS)

Let them hear from you

The more time that passes, the more clarity will develop in these uncertain times and we need to stay vigilant to remain aware and react accordingly. Let your employees hear the news from you if there is a change that will impact your industry or their role specifically. There may be more blindsides we are not expecting, so make it a point to be the voice of guidance if anything like this arises. Your employees will digest the information best when they know your leadership has taken the information into consideration.

Guide employees through any major company changes

This can be the flow of your business or their own roles changing within the company. Perhaps they themselves will be changing roles or adding on new responsibilities. It is up to you to set up a system to train them and make this transition as easy and as snackable as possible. Short snackable trainings and quizzes are great for that.

Be aware of your leadership and your company’s capabilities

Below are key questions to ask yourself as you prepare to welcome your employees back to the “new normal.” Take the necessary time to work through them as they will bring you clarity on how to move forward:

  1. How can we best support our employees?
  2. Do we have the resources needed for this change and if not, where can we reallocate?
    Remember, your attention is a resource as well. How can you use it to make your teams feel heard and acknowledged?
  3. Which department can handle this/that change in our business best?
  4. How do we want to internally communicate these changes?
  5. How can we make our employees feel safe?
  6. How does our business play a role in the grand scheme of keeping our communities safe?
  7. Can we continue utilizing online communication to minimize risk?
  8. What improvements has this crisis potentially made for our business?
  9. How can we talk about those learnings to improve what we do, how we do it, and WHY we do it?

We believe with the S.E.A. strategy and dedicated preparation, you can learn to sail these stormy seas and get your business as ready as possible to welcome back your employees.

Keep up to date with the latest research on COVID-19 impact to stay vigilant and prepared to respond.