Getting small businesses back in business and employees returning to work is a priority to get the economy back up and running as well as to help people start the process of getting back to some sense of normal. But things are not “normal” and getting employees back to work is not as easy as it sounds. To help with that, we put together a 4-part series that touches on a variety of things that small business must consider when planning their return to work strategies.
In the first part of the series, we talked assessing the work arrangements of your small business and what that looks like now and in the future. You can read part 1 here.
In the second part of the series, we looked at the policies, procedures and documentation that should be either created or reassessed to make sure they align with the new workplace. You can read part 2 here.
In the third part of the series, we talked about preparing the physical work environment and guidelines to follow to help keep employees safe and feeling comfortable. You can read part 3 here.
This week is the 4th and final part of the series that focuses on providing employee support and helping them understand the new work environment. Although it is the last part of the series, it is probably the most important part. Every single person has been impacted by this pandemic and are feeling that impact in both their personal and professional lives. As small business owners and leaders, it is our responsibility to be mindful of that and communicating with employees regarding the transition back to work to help ease any additional anxiety or concern that they may feel. Here is what we recommend as it relates to providing employee support through the transition back to work:
· Schedule a one on one call with each employee prior to the return to the office – Whether a traditional phone call or through video conferencing, a one on one with each employee creates the connection and personalization that employees need and deserve right now. Each person’s situation will be different and being available to discuss the transition and address any questions they may have is important to employee support.
· Prepare a communication plan about what to expect and what the company is doing to support employees – Whether it be outlining the new cleaning standards, expectations around physical interactions in the workplace or providing PPE, outside of the one on ones, a mix of a written and verbal communication plans should be designed for each stage of the transition. This will address immediate needs as well as ongoing needs of employees. This communication plan will help employees understand and know what the company is doing to provide a safe and productive work environment.
· Provide as needed training to employees and managers around any new workplace policies or practices – In the second part of the series, we talked about updating company policies and procedures that reflect the current work environment and any job changes. Training is needed for employees to help them understand the new policies or procedures and ensure their adherence to those policies. Managers training is important to help them better manage in the new work environment and provide them the support they need to best support their respective teams.
· Offer ongoing moral support and open-door communication – As mentioned, each employee’s situation is different, and the impact of this pandemic is not a one-time deal. It is something that will continue to change and evolve over time. Provide opportunities for employees to speak freely and communicate their concerns as well as celebrate wins and successes. It can be easy to fall into the negative with all of the unknowns around us, but now more than ever, it is important to celebrate wins and focus on the silver linings.
· Encourage the use of the Employee Assistance Program (EAP) if available – The mental health impact on individuals of this pandemic is enormous and could even be considered a second pandemic. As a point of reference, here is a WebMD article discussing the issue. If you currently do not offer an Employee Assistant Program, we strongly recommend that you do so. If you currently offer benefits, check with your benefit provider about an EAP option or reach out to us about our small business EAP offering. EAP’s are a very low-cost way to provide a big benefit. The EAP we offer provides up to 8 counseling sessions for the employee and their household members, which most other EAP’s only offer 3. The counseling benefit is only 1 of many benefits associated with the EAP through Employers Advantage LLC. Regardless of where you get the EAP, we again strongly recommend looking at that benefit for your small business employees.
·Assess each employee’s situation as it relates to time off requests – The last thing a small business needs are non-compliance claims because of something unknown. Take the time to assess each employees request for time off to see whether or not it would qualify under the FFCRA or not so that you don’t find your company in non-compliance.
Making the decision to open back up and get back to the work environment is not something to take lightly. There is a lot of information available that can be overwhelming, so it is important to get information from trusted resources. The CDC Flow Chart is a great tool to help determine if your small business should open and how. As always, the team at Employers Advantage LLC is here for support, guidance so that you don’t have to go through this alone. We are all in this together and will get through this together.
Be well - Deanna