Just 3 years ago, everyone assumed that the future of business would revolve around remote working. The pandemic forced many companies to adopt work-from-home initiatives in order to keep their businesses operating and to keep employees and customers safe. Safe to say that everyone thought that was the “new normal”. However, things have changed. More and more major corporations and even small and medium-sized enterprises are asking employees to return to work.
More than twice as many Fortune 100 companies (31%) returned to the office in 2022 as they did in 2021. From Disney to Apple, to Starbucks, employers are requesting a return to the “old normal”.
If you are running or managing a business and you’ve realized that the remote working arrangement is no longer working, how do you ask your team to return to the office?
We all know that good communication with employees is vital. However, it’s one of those things you don’t think about until it becomes a problem. Poor communication leads to confusion, miscalculations, oversights, and lapses in judgment — all of which can have a marked effect on your return-to-work requests.
Clear and open communication is key to organizational success — without it, businesses simply cannot thrive. In this article, we will show you the right way to effectively communicate to your team that it is time to return to work.
Let Them Hear it From You First
One of the worst feelings as an employee is to hear about an important company change from co-workers, customers, or others outside of the business. As members of your working family, your employees feel they are entitled to learn about changes that affect them. And the fact is, they are.
This is why communication with your employees about returning to work should come quickly and clearly. Waiting too long will keep employees on edge. Keeping that information a secret increases the likelihood of rumors
Transparency is one of the most important things you can do to ensure the success of your company. Failing to share important information with your employees indicates a lack of confidence — and that can lead to some serious distrust and unrest among the rank and file. Instead, you should divulge as much information as possible.
Share with your employees the real reasons why the change is necessary. Don’t hold back important details that they need to know. Even if they are not completely happy with the information, showing that you want to inform them will help keep the trust between you and your employees strong.
Acknowledge the Situation
Start the conversation by acknowledging the difficult circumstances that everyone has been through. Express your appreciation for the hard work that your employees have done during this time.
Also, acknowledge how important it is for the company for the employees to return to work. Be specific as the “why”. Try not to use vague terms about productivity or culture. Instead, let them know how returning to the office is going to help the company fulfill its mission.
Employees need to know that their returning to the office is not about controlling them. Rather, they need to know it is about making meaningful progress that can only be done with their corporation.
Ask for Employee Feedback
Taking a top-down approach to communication may provide you with a modicum of control, but it won’t do you (or your employees) any favors in the long run. Rather than making communication a one-way street, regularly ask your employees to offer up their thoughts and feedback. Not only will this lead to increased employee engagement, but it will also allow you to make positive changes within your organization — and that’s just money in the bank!
Some employees won’t share feedback with their managers or company leaders because they are uncertain about what consequences they may face for doing so. Often this is the feedback you need most — the kind that might sting at first when you hear it. To make sure everyone feels safe sharing their opinions, offer a platform for anonymous feedback. A virtual suggestion box is best as it will allow everyone to make themselves heard.
Communicate Your Flexibility
Asking your employees to return to work is a big deal. You don’t want to make that request without being flexible enough to ease them back into it. Take some time to ask your employees about their needs. Then, let them know that you are willing to be flexible during the transition.
Once you have a sense of your employee’s needs, consider the options that might work for both of you. For example, if your employee needs to work from home until they can make some accommodations at home, find a way to work with them on that. Also, if possible, continue a hybrid work option where employees can work from home on certain days of the week.
If you agree to be flexible with your employee, be sure to follow through on your commitments. Make sure you communicate any changes or adjustments that may need to be made along the way.
Keep Communication Going Throughout the Process
Clear and regular communication ensures that everyone is on the same page and working towards the same goals during the transition back to work. By communicating effectively, employers can convey expectations, offer feedback, and provide support to employees. Things may be bumpy at first but keep the communication going. There are also many things you can do along the way to improve communication with your employees when they return.
It also allows employees to share their ideas, concerns, and feedback with management about their feelings after the return. Ultimately, open and consistent communication helps employees ease back into the office. Employers need to prioritize this ongoing communication with their employees to achieve long-term success.
Effective communication is a balm for many sore spots within an organization. This is even more true when communicating with employees about returning to work after working remotely. As we mentioned before, asking employees to return to work isn’t easy. However, if you take initiative and do what’s necessary to open up the lines of communication, you may just find your company to be happier and healthier than ever before.
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