There’s an interesting article in the May 11 edition of The New York Times that explores what retailers are doing to prepare for reopening their stores. Much of it talks about how they’re working to allay the anxieties of their shoppers. There are many differences between our business here at OnSolve and the nations’ retail, hospitality, services and other highly customer-facing industries. But it was the similarities that caught my attention. especially when it came to its reporting and insight about how these retailers are helping customers adjust to new methods, processes, spaces and more.
OnSolve employees, just like those retailers’ customers, are going to be anxious when they return to work, in exactly the same ways and for many of the same reasons. (I won’t dig into those reasons here, but you can learn more from the transcript of a recent Q&A session I took part in. It’s called Period of Adjustment and you can read it here.)
COVID-19, a constant reminder.
Right now, here at OnSolve, we’re formalizing our planning for the return to our offices (and that planning includes the possibility of keeping some or all of the workforce remote). We know that what people are going to encounter when they return to their offices has the potential to make them even more anxious and uncertain about their safety than they already are. So much of it is going to be new.
What might that return look like? While we haven’t made any final decisions, sharing some of our considerations could be guidance for you as you reopen your own offices. We know that some things will be new. We’re thinking of sanitation stations throughout the office, and perhaps a bottle of sanitizer on each desk. We may require masks, based on local guidance across our offices. There may be more changes, such as an increased presence of cleaning crews throughout the day. And we anticipate some employee concerns about the safety of meeting and break rooms. All these are constant reminders of the threat of COVID-19.
The secret to making adoption of new routines easy for our employees and non-disruptive for our business, is to make their transition gradual and surprise-free.
And the secret to that is effective, broad-reaching communications.
We communicate with our people often. We did it before COVID-19. We increased the outreaches after COVID-19. We trained our teams on the new protocols to be followed. And as we approach reopening we’re going to add a lot of information across media and channels to let them know what to expect when they return. We don’t want them walking unprepared into a significantly refashioned office layout, to a masked person holding a thermometer to their foreheads. We don’t want to surprise staff with all the changes and inconveniences and new restrictions and requirements that we may implement to keep them safe.
So our communications will focus on safety which may include orientation, rules and regulations, location of various safety areas, proper use of sanitizers—whatever we can think of. If we hire an outside company to handle entry and exit protocols, we’ll introduce them and their people who will be working with us. These all will become regular rituals across our offices, and, sure, eventually we’ll get used to them: or at least accustomed to them. Still, it’s going to be a bit of a new world for us when we return to work. New ways, new spaces, new rules and new anxieties. Calming that fear, and the personal stress and business disruption that goes with it, depends, to a large extent on the way we communicate, the channels we use, and the messages we send.