Return To Work
March 5th, 2021

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Using Data To Optimize Seating Strategies

Your executive team has finalized a return to work plan, and now it’s time to share it across your organization.

Before you send off a series of lengthy emails, consider all the channels you have at your fingertips in the digital workplace.

How can you use them to communicate these new policies and protocols in a way that helps employees retain the information and creates an ongoing dialogue?

Communicating the big picture of your return to work plan

1. Company meetings

Employees are both excited and anxious about returning to the office, so you need to convey confidence and compassion in all communications  — especially in your initial announcements.

A virtual all-hands meeting gives you the opportunity to share your return-to-office timeline, discuss changes at a high level, and address any immediate concerns.

Here are some items that should be on your agenda:

  • Commend your employees for their resilience and commitment during these challenging times. Recognize it hasn’t been easy and you value their continued efforts and patience.
  • Remind them of the resources available through your Employee Assistance Program. Explain how they can access counseling and other services, and remind them these services are confidential.
  • Give an overview of the phases of your office reopenings and let them know their department leaders will be meeting with them to provide more specific information. Some departments and individuals may return to the office sooner, while others may continue to work remotely.
  • Discuss changes to your remote work policy to ensure everyone knows when they will be expected to be available for virtual or in-person team meetings. Employees should also know when to notify others if they are working remotely and/or working flexible hours after the office has reopened.
  • Highlight safety protocols, including updates to your workplace visitor policy, wellness checks, and expectations for physical distancing and sanitizing shared surfaces.
  • End with positive news, whether it’s a company outing scheduled for this summer, more PTO days, or new professional development opportunities.

2. Team or department meetings

After the big company meeting, your department leaders should meet with their teams to discuss your return to work plan in more detail.

Use this as an opportunity to drill down on the specifics related to their group and to allow them to ask questions or voice concerns that might have been uncomfortable or inappropriate in a large, all-hands setting.

That might include how each department will collaborate in the hybrid workplace. Some departments may have established days and times for in-person meetings or work sessions, while others opt for more flexibility.

Department leaders should also discuss how they will provide feedback and evaluate their team’s performance moving forward. If you decide to continue annual performance reviews, your leaders need other ways to keep their team engaged and ensure they are meeting established goals throughout the year.

Use technology to continue the conversation

3. Collaborative cloud-based software and your company intranet

During your live announcements, let employees know where to find written policies (like updates to your employee handbook) so they can easily access them later.

Google Drive makes it easy for employees to access important documents, but it can be hard for employees to find things if it isn’t well-organized. Keep these documents in a few centralized folders and ensure only employees have access to them. You can also use Google Forms to send short surveys to employees related to how they’re feeling about returning and what concerns they may have. 

A company intranet is another good place to keep policies and protocols. 

4. Email

While too many emails can be overwhelming for employees, it’s still a good channel for sharing formal documents so they’re easy for employees to find later.

That includes:

  • Company policies and benefits
  • Training and onboarding resources
  • Employee-specific information, such as an updated job description after a manager has discussed the details with them on video
  • Links to shared documents and folders
  • Reminders that affect both in-person and remote employees
  • Messages that require a response

Keep the psychological impact of your employees’ overcrowded inboxes in mind, especially for “filer/deleter” types. And make sure your employee email lists are segmented properly so updates that are only relevant for a certain department or office aren’t going out to everyone.

If you find yourself making frequent email announcements that don’t require a response, there may be better alternatives.

5. Messaging and work-based social media platforms

Slack and Facebook Workplace are two of the most popular messaging platforms designed to combat “email fatigue.”

These platforms work well for everything from hosting informal discussions to quick announcements, helpful tips, and discussions.

While they aren’t the best place to communicate all the details of your return-to-work plan, they’re great for posting reminders and keeping the conversation going.

For instance, each office could have a different Slack channel with reopening reminders specific to them. Employees can turn off notifications and opt to check them when they need to refer back to a discussion.

6. Project management software

Programs like Basecamp, Trello, and Asana have some of the same messaging capabilities as channel-based messaging platforms but are focused on collaborative projects rather than messaging.

Instead of sending email attachments, especially if they aren’t time-sensitive or don’t require a response, you can create a project for return to work communications and post related information there.

This allows you to build up a library of resources and store it in one place. Other members of the executive team can easily add documents or post messages.

7. Solutions to help employees navigating your new workspace

With so many variables in your hybrid workplace (including who is working in the office and when) it can be difficult to manage capacity and seating arrangements.

Instead of keeping a spreadsheet of who is in the office on specific days, where everyone is sitting, and what rooms they've reserved, give employees a mobile app that lets them reserve space when they need it.

With the Teem mobile app, employees can reserve desks or conference rooms when they need them. 

You can also use room displays or other forms of digital signage to post announcements for people working in the office — such as reminding everyone of new office hours or capacity limits for each meeting room. Digital displays that integrate with wayfinding software will also help returning employees feel welcome and safe.

And if you have a substantial real estate footprint and need to make significant updates to your floor plans and seating, iOFFICE’s space planning software can help you redesign your workplace to support physical distancing and a safe re-entry.  

Creating a safer, less stressful workspace

Communicating your return-to-work plan and reinforcing new policy changes after you’ve reopened will minimize uncertainty and reduce anxiety for everyone.

Whatever communication channels you decide to use, be intentional about your choice — and be willing to re-evaluate if employees aren’t responding to it the way you hoped they would.

For best practices on optimizing your seating strategy as you finalize your return-to-work plan, join us for our upcoming webinar.

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