A very important part of ensuring a smooth transition during times of change is developing a clear and concise communication plan. Helping employees understand new policies and procedures prior to returning to the workplace post Covid-19 will be key to organizational success. This document provides some advice on the process for developing workplace
protocols for a successful re-entry into the workplace and presents an example of guidelines for a hypothetical company that addresses some hot-button issues.

Tips for Developing Return to the Workplace Protocols

Before Getting Started
+ Gain leadership support. Top-level leadership and support are vital to a successful re-entry process. Engage leaders early and encourage them to be active and visible throughout the process.
+ Consult with Human Resources and Legal to assure compliance. Appropriate departmental representatives should be involved to ensure that any guidelines you create align with company policies and meet legal requirements.
+ Assemble a Team. Gather a group to co-create the guide and discuss best practices. Consider a cross-disciplinary team of representatives from HR, Communications, Facilities, Legal, Customer Service and other front-facing departments.
+ Establish a plan. Consider your approach for transitioning back to the workplace and what items to include in the guidelines. Areas to think about include protocols for a distributed work strategy, visitor policy,
individual and shared space type changes, social and physical distancing standards, posted signage and circulation patterns, technology usage and the addition of new on-site conveniences. Also consider your work-from-home policy. Some team members may experience extra challenges with care responsibilities, commutes, etc.

Creating The Guide
+ Define your language and set the tone. Curate an etiquette guide that is aligned with your culture. Semantics are important for effective communication with your employees. Lead with employee health, safety
and security, reassuring employees of the steps you are taking to create a healthy workplace for everyone. Clearly communicate new protocols and expectations for employee behavior.
+ Review existing protocols. If you have existing company guidelines and/or an etiquette guide in place, review and revise the contents. Provide a postpandemic update to help your company understand the new policies and procedures. Let employees know that existing procedures such as noise considerations still apply. However these new guidelines are going to be put in place to ensure their safety.

During Re-entry
+ Deliver guidelines. Use the release of guidelines as an opportunity to reiterate your message and share the steps the organization is taking to ensure employee safety. Consider a virtual town hall or hands on meeting
to introduce the back-to-the-workplace plan of action. In addition to the sample guidelines presented, develop support materials such as new office plans, remote work guidelines, seating and storage assignments,
technology instructions and codes, wayfinding materials and any other references that employees can consult.
+ Support managers. Coach and train supervisors and managers to help them succeed in their key roles as change agents. Ask them to set expectations, model desired behaviors and foster a team spirit.
+ Centralize information. Provide a central location, such as an online community board, for information to be shared and easily accessible to employees.
+ Offer support and outreach. Establish a help line and/or recruit change “champions” to direct employees to additional information and resources.

After Re-entry
+ Continue to reinforce behavior. Environments often prescribe behaviors; people will revert back into old habits unless it is clear that there are new expectations.
+ Monitor and adjust. Assess the successes and shortcomings of the re-entry process. Make regular rounds to observe how the policies and protocols are working and how employees feel. Encourage feedback to
better understand when adjustments to the plan should be considered.

Check out the full document for additional information including a sample memo on introducing changes to office policies, protocol and politeness.

Additional Knoll resources that may be helpful include employee feedback ideas, as well as temporary signage graphics.

Related Resources:

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Saxton is owned and operated by President Kim Augspurger and is a Targeted Small Business, Women Minority Owned in the State of Iowa, as well as certified as a Disadvantaged Business Enterprise.