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Your employees are heading back to the office. Are their heads in the right place?

As companies implement a return to the workplace, they are literally moving their employees from where they are to where they need to be. 

 

And where are those employees? All over the place—geographically and emotionally.

 

Their feelings of uncertainty, confusion, trepidation and anxiety mix with excitement, anticipation and optimism.

 

Each of your employees is somewhere on this complex and contradictory spectrum.

 

Dealing with an important and historic transition is not and cannot be a single event or moment in time. It requires a process—a specific journey—in three stages: Before, During and After the Return.

 

This distinction might seem simple, but at each stage, your employees are in different emotional states. Each stage, therefore, has its own communications objectives requiring different methods of meeting your employees where they are.

 

The big objective? Addressing employee needs effectively at each stage so they’re ultimately more comfortable, confident and productive.

Here are the three stages in your employees’ return-to-work journey:

STAGE 1: BEFORE THE RETURN
A moment to look back. A moment to acknowledge and prepare for what’s ahead.
Communications Objectives: Anticipate. Reassure. Inform.

 

First, before they return, there’s a need to address trepidation, concerns about safety and the logistics of coming back. Workplace health is a real concern, as are work/life balance policies. Those concerns require a series of communications that inform and reassure, but also allow employees to express their needs and emotions about coming back.

 

It’s important for employees to have platforms for expression and participation, so they know they’re not alone, and that they matter to the company. They need to know the company gets their concerns, understands their priorities, and delivers what they need to be their best.

STAGE 2: DURING THE RETURN
A period of transition from one reality to the next
Communications Objectives: Acclimate. Orient. Celebrate..

 

Next is the period when they are coming back, acclimating to new realities, and ramping up to new levels of productivity and (re)connection. This is when it’s most important to celebrate, reinforce and acknowledge the benefits of being together again.

 

In this stage, encourage renewed productivity, engagement, new connections and reconnections, with participatory on-site activities and celebratory events

 

Equally important: Motivating communications and creative media components that raise expectations, confidence, and comfort levels. Reduce fears. Show new standards in practice. Address the needs of both sides. Plus, inspire and capture new ideas and best practices in a new atmosphere.

STAGE 3: AFTER THE RETURN
Marking the moment when being back is no longer novel or strange

Communications Objectives: Focus. Progress. Commence.

 

Finally, there comes a time when the transition ends. You don’t look back, only ahead, together. It’s time to mark this threshold you all cross together with communications and even a ceremony of passage into your company’s future.

 

Not all communications programs have a definitive ending, but this one probably should—to signal the start of something big and meaningful, a recognition of achievement and progress. A milestone to mark a new beginning.

 

 Each of these phases on the journey back to the workplace applies a range of tactics and channels—from on-site events to participatory video submission campaigns. From environmental branding and welcome back(packs) to inspiring guest speakers. And more.

We would love to share with you some of these ideas for making your return to the workplace a success. Talk to us.