Five Best Practices for a Successful Return to Work Plan

by Energage

Planning for the return to work is a big topic on the minds of business leaders right now. There’s pressure to move carefully, yet quickly, and the actions you take will have a lasting impact. While there isn’t a one-size-fits-all answer, these best practices will help to set you up for success.

1. Be empathetic toward individual situations, concerns, and fears.

Organizations are made up of individuals with different situations, concerns, and fears. Some may be at higher risk of serious complications from COVID-19. Others have the added stress of being a caregiver or challenges with childcare. In addition to establishing safety measures, it’s important for employees to feel safe. Don’t put all of your employees in the same box. Some may be struggling more than others.

2. Ask employees how they feel about your return to work plan.

The only way to know how your employees are feeling about the return to work is to ask them. Capturing candid and honest feedback is the best, most effective way you can do this. So, before any transition plan is communicated to the staff, gather employee feedback via a short, targeted survey. This provides the critical data needed to inform a thoughtful plan, guide your decision making, and take action with confidence.

Awareness of what employees are thinking, how they are feeling, and where there could be potential challenges will help you to avoid hot spots. Plus, letting employees know you value their input will build trust and improve your odds of success even more.

3. Gain valuable intelligence with short, targeted surveys.

Shorter and more focused than a comprehensive annual engagement survey, pulse surveys capture real-time employee feedback that enables you to tackle immediate topics and gain valuable intelligence for mission-critical business issues. Typically fewer than 10 questions each, these quick-to-launch, fast-turnaround surveys help C-suite, human resources, operations, and technology leaders to:

  • Target specific topics and inform the return to work plan.
  • Measure employee sentiment, readiness, and confidence levels.
  • Generate actionable, people-centered insights within 48 hours.
  • Minimize hot spots, reduce risk, and accelerate decision making.
  • Gain the trust and confidence of employees.

Pulse surveys: Four easy steps for valuable, real-time employee feedback

1. Select a relevant topic and choose your pulse questions.

2. Define the audience, from specific teams and locations to the entire organization.

3. Launch the survey, limiting the response window to 48 hours or less.

4. Review results with key stakeholders and identify action steps.

4. Use employee feedback to inform return to work decision making.

Think of the transition in three phases: planning, communication, and retrospective. Capturing employee feedback on these topics during each phase of your return to work plan will give you the guidance you need, help you stay on track, and quickly identify when a pivot may be needed.

Return to Work Planning

  • Productivity and efficiency
  • Excitement and motivation to return
  • Specific concerns and individual needs
  • Comfort level and ability to return

Return to Work Communication

  • Clarity of communications
  • Confidence in the return to work plan
  • Support for caregivers

Return to Work Retrospective

  • Health and safety protocols
  • Clarity of procedures
  • Learning and celebrations

5. Share with employees what you hear and how you will use their input.

Communicate with employees before each pulse survey launch. Explain the purpose and what to expect.

Thank employees for taking the time to complete the survey. Assure them that you value their feedback – when you do, they’ll be more likely to participate again the next time.

Respond quickly to pulse survey results. Pinpoint one or two actions you can take right away. This will have a better impact than spending too much time on a detailed plan.

Tie the actions you take to the pulse survey results. Whenever possible, let employees know that the decisions you made were based on their input.  

Continue to use pulse surveys beyond the return to work transition. Maintain connection with employees. Use their feedback to guide your decision making and build trust throughout the organization.

Make employee feedback part of your return to work plan