Will it be next month? Or perhaps next quarter? Maybe even next year. The topic of conversation among many employees up and down the org chart is when their workplaces may reopen. While some companies, such as Twitter, have already announced decisions about their future of work (Twitter employees can opt to work from home permanently moving forward), others are still making determinations and accommodations to ensure a smooth transition for all staff.
However, it's not simply a matter of putting up barriers between cubicles, following social distancing guidelines, and keeping hand soap and sanitizer readily available. Organizational leaders must also prepare for addressing employees' emotional and motivational needs as they readjust to coming back to the office.
In many cases—and unlike the move to remote work after stay-at-home orders were announced—companies have had the luxury of planning ahead to develop the best strategy to adapt. As Annemarie Spadafore delves into in this month's cover story, part of that planning involves developing reentry initiatives that keep employees' psychological safety and motivations top of mind. "Employers need to meet employee needs, acknowledge emotions, and engage cognition," she writes.
What good is bringing staff back to the workplace if their productivity and enthusiasm for the job will dwindle? And what new skills (both hard and soft) have employees learned recently that have them reexamining their career goals? "Information regarding personal and career goals may inform succession planning and provide employees greater opportunities to try new roles or take on greater responsibilities," Spadafore adds.
Whatever your company's return date, whether it's already come and gone or the countdown has begun, a purposeful reentry process is in order. "Employers must intentionally ensure that all workers feel as though they belong," Spadafore says, "and that the organization is intent on learning from this experience."