For organizations that had to make the tough decision to put employees on furlough in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, it's a bittersweet feeling to welcome staff back to the workplace.
The promise of communicating face-to-face with your team is an exciting novelty to look forward to - but assessing the right time to do so and making tough choices about who you can bring back is a complicated and stressful process.
The good news here is that you aren't alone in what you're going through. Many organizations are preparing to welcome team members back to work and re-open offices - and we've got three pieces of advice that will help you make the process as seamless as possible:
Clearly communicate the role you're offering furloughed employees
Returning to work is not as simple as welcoming waves of employees back to their old jobs. Technically your organization is making a new job offer, which your employee can accept, reject, or negotiate - and their answer will affect the employee's unemployment status.
To make sure employees understand the role they're being hired for, bring employees back to work with an offer letter that clearly identifies their updated job status. This letter should include details like the following:
- Title, job description, and responsibilities
- Line of management
- Salary, benefits, and exemption status
It's also in your best interest to highlight any changes relative to the pre-COVID world in the details provided above so that employees won't be confused when they return to work.
As Lin Grensing-Pophal, Contributing Editor of the HR Daily Advisor writes in a recent article about recalling furloughed employees, employers need to be clear with staff regarding how their responsibilities have changed and how the company will adjust staffing to address any changes in the workload.
Read more: How to Manage Teams When Working Remotely
Put safety and comfort first
One of the most important steps in bringing employees back to work is ensuring everyone feels safe and comfortable with what they're doing and where they're working. For large organizations like Google, Amazon Corporate, and Sony Music, that means making it optional to work in the office or work an adjusted remote schedule, splitting time between the home and the office to reduce physical exposure to others. For organizations like Facebook, Twitter, and Zillow, that means a shift to offering work-from-home as a permanent option.
In your re-onboarding process, clearly communicate how your organization will meet or exceed requirements for safety and sanitation in light of the ongoing pandemic and what options are available to employees who are not yet comfortable coming back to the office to work.
In roles where employees will be in physical offices, consider how to modify work spaces to limit physical interaction and encourage social distancing. In roles where employees will need to interact with the public, consider these same modifications as well as office or store crowd management practices that regulate face-to-face interactions and improve employee and customer safety.
Establish a process for selecting rehires
For employers, the process of choosing who to bring back can be a minefield of politics and strategy. This may be a straightforward process for smaller businesses with limited staff. But for larger businesses or those experiencing a lot of change or staffing challenges, it can be a lot more complicated.
For example, in a recent Ask a Manager article, a hospitality industry employee wrote about feelings of confusion and dissatisfaction after a co-worker was invited to return to work instead of them due to changes in the business.
"Employers should follow any existing policies on recalls, such as a seniority system, when determining who to recall first", said Isaac Mamaysky, an attorney with Potomac Law Group in New York City quoted in a recent interview for the Society for Human Resources Management. "If an employer doesn't have recall policies, the main goal should be to avoid the perception of wrongful termination in rehiring decisions."
A Confident and Flexible Approach to Re-Onboarding
It was hard enough to send your people home on furlough. Don't make the process of re-onboarding employees any harder than necessary. We hope these three guidelines can help you craft a smooth plan for identifying and notifying employees to bring back to work.
Your people will remember how you supported them during COVID-19. To get involved in the conversation on Glassdoor and start managing and promoting your employer brand reputation, unlock your Free Employer Account today.