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Supporting Employees Through Reopening

All clichés aside, there’s no denying that the past months have been challenging on every level. As we enter yet another patch of uncharted waters, it’s important to continue iterating on your People strategy to ensure that employees’ needs are being addressed. Unfortunately, HR teams are going to have more to do than ever as we begin to return to our workplaces, with myriad staffing decisions to be made, workplace policies to reimagine and revise, and extensive trauma, grief, and burnout among team members to manage. Employees may be learning to navigate new familial and/or financial circumstances, different economic climates, and more, and People teams will have to adapt to help everyone remain engaged and productive.

With so much to manage and so many restrictions, it can be easy to let things like employee events and diversity and inclusion fall by the wayside. Ultimately however, this is the time when employees need community and support more than ever. Allowing company culture to evolve unchecked while so many people are emotionally struggling can enable unhealthy dynamics that will take years to reverse. Facilitating more remote work without strategies to keep colleagues connected essentially guarantees breakdowns in communication that will detract from your business goals.

Furthermore, abandoning diversity and inclusion efforts during this critical time has the potential to reverse all of the recruitment work your company has done and make it more difficult to hire diverse individuals in the future. This is a dangerous proposition given that diverse companies outperform industry norms by 35%. As budgets tighten and difficult decisions need to be made, employee programming and benefits can seem like obvious targets. Ultimately though, most companies will find that in the long-term, savings from such cuts will not outweigh the negative impacts on retention and output.

Luckily, there are low-cost ways to offer employee supports to both retain your talent and manage your budget during these challenging times. In the aftermath of the first wave of the virus, a few pieces of the engagement puzzle are going to become more important to employees than ever before, so you can get the most bang for your buck by focusing efforts there. The real key to keep in mind is flexibility. This spans across all aspects of your organization, from wellbeing benefits, including mental health, to remote work options.

For instance, if you can make time to put in the work upfront, you can likely expand the scope of your company’s health benefits without significant expense, enabling employees to do what’s best for their own households. Offering options for additional services, even if the company isn’t financing them, will save employees the time of seeking out providers on their own, relieving stress and ensuring they can meet their needs. Similarly, enabling employees to set their own schedule of being in or out of the office can help them juggle their varied responsibilities through this transition and truly focus on their work rather than worrying how they’ll manage.

On the traditional engagement front, from happy hours and company parties to in-office perks, the model will obviously need to change. The new path forward doesn’t necessarily need to be work or capital-intensive, though. We write a lot about employee empowerment on this blog, and the concept applies here, too. Ask your employees what would be helpful, connect them with each other for support and mentorship, enable exploration within the organization so that if you’re in a position where you have to restructure, you can make the most of the people you already have. None of these strategies require significant budget, but they can go a long way towards keeping morale up amidst the current and upcoming challenges.

Lastly, for those who will miss the classic party approach, one upside of having to organize remote events instead is that it is significantly less expensive than paying for venues, etc. Hold remote happy hours where people bring their favorite beverage and share why; organize small groups to cook or just eat dinner together over Zoom and watch your employees build camaraderie on a whole new level; offer online classes or events that people can attend with their children to offer some relief to parents who are low on time (and likely patience at this point), and develop connections across departments. Double down on your employee resource groups to ensure that your most underrepresented employees feel valued and appreciated.

It doesn’t have to be costly to sustain employee engagement through times of economic uncertainty, but failing to prioritize it inevitably will be. If you’re looking for an all-in-one platform to build transparency around your programming for every employee, whether in-person or remote, Workrowd can help. Visit our site, or reach out at hello@workrowd.com. We’d love to learn more and see how we can work together.