After two months of so much uncertainty, are you and your company ready when your teams head back to the office? If this is the case for your business, you likely have some questions and concerns about how this is going to work. After all, there’s no returning to “normalcy,” at least not in the next 6 months, as COVID-19 still remains a threat that we have to consider. But at the same time, most businesses have to get back to work soon and will need to make some changes to stay safe and prosper. If you’re wondering how to return to work while keeping employees happy and healthy, consider these tips.
1. Help More People Start Working Remotely
Some jobs just can’t be done from home…but many can. And one thing this pandemic has shown us is that some jobs are arguably better done from home than from an office! After all, remote workers are often more productive, as they have more time in the day when they don’t have to commute for an hour or two. Maybe that’s why one study found that remote workers work about 1.4 more days per month than in-office workers.
And that added productivity means employers make more money when they let at least a portion of their employees work from home. If you can’t make your team fully remote, at least consider letting them work from home one or two days per week. This way, you both get some of the benefits of remote work, like added productivity.
Plus, after having worked from home for the last two months, this setup is what many of your employees are now comfortable with. They’ve made it work, and some may even be thriving as a result. Don’t make them change that suddenly and return to work as you reopen your office. The chance to stay home a bit longer may be the only thing that’s allowing them to feel comfortable and safe as the world reopens.
2. Adjust Your Marketing Strategy
If you’ve paused your marketing efforts while trying to figure out how to pivot your business during this pandemic, it’s time to start it up again. In fact, you should have been working on your marketing tactics during any free time you had in these last couple months, so now is the time to ramp it up.
Start by taking more of your marketing digital – you should have been doing more digital before the pandemic, but that’s another story. After all, there will probably not be any big conferences or in-person events this year, so stop planning for those. Instead, put all your energy into safe outlets that are probably more efficient for marketing, like video, email marketing, paid social and other digital tools. It’s cheaper than ever to buy digital and social media ads, so consider that if you can afford paid advertising. This is also a great time to redesign your website or add a chatbot so visitors can get instant answers to questions.
Additionally, this is a good time to launch an advocacy marketing program in which you turn to your customers and ask them to write reviews online. You can also encourage them to share stories and pictures that involve your brand so you can repost on your social pages.
Finally, keep in mind that people want to hear personal stories now more than ever. They’re worried, and they want to make human connections (from a distance, of course!). So according to SEO expert Rand Fishkin, this is a good time for your messaging to be comforting and empathetic while relating personal stories. Any time you write an email or social media post, maintain a sympathetic, caring tone and address questions you think your customers have. You want to set minds at ease while increasing awareness of your business.
3. Think About What You Learned While Relying on Video
If your business is like most others just trying to survive during the pandemic, you’ve probably become used to video. Whether you’ve used video to address your employees regularly or make announcements to your customers, you’ve come to depend on this digital tool!
And while it’s nice to have video to use during quarantine, there’s a bit of a learning curve for most businesses that are suddenly using it more than ever. Maybe you saw some great successes from it, but you also probably experienced some failures. You can learn from both! You just have to sit down and analyze what went right or wrong. That way, you can fix any issues as you reopen, because you’re probably not going to suddenly stop using video as you return to work.
For example, do you know how many viewers you reached in each video? Did most people watch the entire video, and if not, do you know where they stopped? What was employee engagement like for these videos, and what was the video quality? When your team heads back to the office, will the network be able to handle the traffic? If you don’t know the answers, it’s time to start keeping track of video metrics with tools like Hive Insights 2.0, which can tell you everything you need to know about your video reach, streaming performance, viewing time, and more.
4. Mix It Up with Asynchronous Communication
As helpful as video conferencing has been, people are getting burnout from it. After all, they’re using it during the workday and even afterward, with Zoom happy hours being a big social activity lately. So if you’re dreading your next live video conference, you’re not alone.
At the same time, face-to-face communication is best, and video is the easiest way to mimic that while also being the most powerful way to communicate, according to research by MediaPlatform. So don’t give up on video altogether! Instead, try asynchronous video, which is a type of communication that doesn’t expect an immediate response. Think of how we used to leave messages on answering machines before we all had cell phones. We could still transmit information, but people could listen to it on their own time.
Consider running a live video broadcast that automatically converts to a video on demand asset. This will give your viewers the ability to watch in real time if they choose, or watch it later if they have a conflict with the live broadcast. Research shows that asynchronous communication increases productivity and efficiency, while giving people more control over their workday than live chat, phone calls, or constant live video conferences do. So try out this option to give your team a break from always being connected.
5. Put More Focus on Keeping Employees Healthy
If you can’t allow all employees to work from home, you can at least help them feel safer by stepping up your focus on health. Start by placing desks at least six feet apart and providing hand sanitizer to employees. The CDC recommends that you also discourage employees from sharing headsets or congregating in the break room. In addition, some major companies like Walmart and Amazon have started pre-screening employees by taking their temperature and assessing symptoms to ensure they’re not sick at work, so consider this option.
You should also be more flexible with potentially sick employees, offering paid time off for doctor appointments and recovery when possible. But be sure to continue this focus on health and wellness far beyond the COVID-19 pandemic. This means continuing to be more flexible with sick days, offering health/wellness programs, and just trying to provide a better work/life balance as they return to work. Get in the mindset of valuing quality over quantity, meaning you allow more flexibility and less time in the office as long as productivity continues.
Overall, before your employees return to work, it’s time to put more thought into how to go digital with your marketing while improving video communication, both synchronous and asynchronous. Doing all this—along with focusing on keeping employees healthy and content—will pay off long after this pandemic is behind us!
The original version of this article was first published on Future of Work.