Welcoming your employees back to work

By Matt Linaker and Kayleigh Tanner

After a trying few months, much of the world is now returning to something starting to resemble “normality.” That doesn’t mean that everyone is back to their water cooler conversations or hanging out in the kitchen, but many organizations have reopened their doors to employees, some furloughed workers are now returning to their roles and many industries are still awaiting confirmation of their own next steps.

Understandably, there’s a lot of trepidation surrounding this “return to work,” and employees and employers alike need to work together to ensure that this happens safely and everyone remains comfortable and productive. In this post, we’ll take a look at the two main ways in which organizations are returning to the new normal, and show you how you can help your employees make the switch.

Returning to the workplace from furlough

A woman wearing a face mask in an office

While many office-based roles continue to be performed from home, other sectors, such as retail and hospitality, are currently welcoming customers, and therefore employees, back into their physical locations.

If people have been out of their normal workplace for months, then many people will be feeling anxious, uncertain and apprehensive about coming back. Each organization will have its own approach to returning to the workplace, such as reducing the number of employees in work at any one time, altered schedules and increasing hygiene and social distancing measures. What we do know is that all of these challenges require great communication, and in the absence of face-to-face conversations, we will all be relying heavily on our technology.

One way to communicate effectively with your employees and ease the transition back into the workplace is with a welcome message on your learning management system (LMS). This way, as soon as people get back into work, they will see a message welcoming them back with links to useful information, such as health and safety checklists and updated workplace policies, such as how many people will be allowed in meeting rooms at a time, what PPE should be worn and when and how to navigate the work environment.

One way to add this to your Totara Learn platform is to use a tool such as StoryTagger to record a quick “welcome back” message from managers (or even the CEO). You can then add this as a block on your LMS homepage to ensure that it’s the first thing people see. You can use Totara Learn’s audiences functionality to make sure everyone sees a video specific to their own team - for instance, your warehouse staff can see a different video (or set of resources) to your sales team working on the shop floor, providing some “normality” and reassurance in a confusing time. 

Additionally, bear in mind that many performance goals now will be different to those set before the global pandemic took hold. In your performance management conversations, ensure that any revised goals are captured and updated in your system. This helps employees know what their key focuses will be for the coming weeks and months, and helps the organization get back on track.

Continuing to work from home

Smiling middle-aged woman working from home on a smartphone and laptop

For many organizations, it makes sense to continue working from home. Twitter and Square announced that all employees can work from home indefinitely, with many other businesses expected to follow suit.

This flexibility can only be a good thing (we advise it is combined with continuous or agile performance management). The UK’s Institute of Leadership and Management has called remote working “the new normal,” and with around half of the US workforce working remotely throughout the coronavirus pandemic, it’s clear that the world has adapted well to this rapid change. 77% of Americans now working remotely say that working from home has helped them discover more productive times outside the traditional 9-5 office hours, and 80% say that they can better manage interruptions from coworkers when working from home.

Two-thirds of employers report increased productivity for remote workers compared to in-office workers.

While remote working is hardly a new concept for many employees worldwide (in 2016, around 43% of Americans regularly worked remotely in some capacity), many organizations (and employees) will take some convincing, and for managers used to maintaining face-to-face relationships, it is worth knowing how they can mitigate the impact of switching to remote work. This requires more flexibility on everyone’s part, and more understanding as people move to this modern way of working.

The LMS will, of course, play a vital role in learning for organizations switching to remote-first policies. Upload resources to train staff on new operating procedures and processes, and ensure that previously face-to-face sessions take place online - perhaps as live online seminars or prerecorded webinars.

You can also use Totara forums to share ideas and share useful information with colleagues. For instance, the Totara Community is used every single day by thousands of learning professionals wanting to swap ideas, solve problems and share resources

So what happens next?

There’s no denying that it’s been a very disruptive time, and technology has brought us together in both our personal and professional lives. Whether your employees are slowly returning to the workplace or will continue to work from home, face-to-face interactions will be dramatically reduced for the foreseeable future, and so technology will continue to play a major role in the way we work and learn.

Your LMS will be vital in the coming months as the home of all your learning activities, so use this time wisely to set up an effective, efficient LMS and bring your teams together. And stay tuned - with the launch of Totara Engage just around the corner, collaboration and working together is about to get a whole lot better… 

Stay in touch with your learning peers

Create your free Totara Community account today for resources on remote working and to connect with fellow learning professionals around the world.