A 3-Phase Approach to Returning to Work: Communicating Your Company’s Way Through COVID-19 with Whispir + Vonage

Keep your employees safe and informed with return-to-work communication templates. Vonage and Whispir have partnered to help you get back to business smoothly.

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As businesses slowly test the waters of reopening and returning to work, people have a lot of questions. The seemingly simple task of communicating your return-to-work plan with your employees and customers is in reality not simple at all; rather, it requires thought and planning. 

How will you keep your people safe? How will you meet customer needs going forward? What will you do if an employee tests positive for COVID-19 after they’ve returned to work? Does returning to the office also mean a return to regular business travel? If not, when will that resume, and how will it be different?

These are all questions employees should and will be asking their employers. Are you prepared to answer them?

“False and unfounded rumors can spread as fast as a virus,” says Harvard Business Review, “and companies need to earn the trust of their employees through frequent and accurate communications.”

Planning is phase one. But phase two is just as important: communication. And whether your workplace is an office, a retail environment, an educational institution, or out in the field, these questions need to be answered. How should you be communicating with your employees and your customers?

Vonage partner Whispir has figured it all out for you and is offering communication templates for your use in each of the following three phases.

Phase One: Inform 

The first thing people need is the simple facts. 

  • When are they returning to work? How? All at once, or staggered? 
  • Will there be new requirements in terms of hygiene and health? 
  • Will masks be required?
  • Will some employees be allowed to remain remote, or are all required to return physically to a brick and mortar location?
  • Has the workplace been thoroughly cleaned and sanitized? 
  • Will it continue to be sanitized regularly?

This information should be laid out clearly and comprehensively for your employees before anybody even thinks about stepping foot on-site.

This is also a time to solicit information from employees. Gather feedback on your policies and respond to them. Ensure everybody feels heard and that your return-to-work policies work for everybody. Address any concerns early on.

And don’t forget the other people affected by your work: customers, suppliers, and other partners. Communicate the pertinent information to each population. Everybody who plays a role in your business functioning needs to be treated with respect and compassion, and they deserve to know how your company is handling this public health crisis so that they, hopefully, feel comfortable working with you again.

Resources and Communication Templates:

Phase Two: Reinstitute 

Your offices may have been sitting empty since March. What will it take to get things up and running again, so your employees can return to work without fear? 

What will it take for customers or suppliers to believe your workplace is safe for them, if that’s applicable?

Health screenings are a top priority in most locations. Will you take employee temperatures each morning? Require the wearing of masks? What other precautions will you take to ensure the successful reestablishment of your “business as usual” operations?

This might include creative shift scheduling to ensure social distancing guidelines are followed. It may involve a staggered return to work for your employees, one group at a time. Whatever it looks like, you should have a plan in place and you should clearly communicate that plan to all employees and customers.

Resources and Communication Templates:

Phase Three: New Ways to Work

You’ve gathered and circulated information; you’ve planned and communicated your return-to-work reinstitution policy. Now that everybody is back working and going about their business, how will things change from what they were before COVID?

As your organization resumes normal operations, you maintain a responsibility to proactively remind employees of social distancing and hygiene rules and update them on an ever-changing situation. Ideally, you would do this via real-time alerts on the employee’s channel of choice (SMS, Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, Viber, or even just a simple phone call).

Another factor to consider is on-site visits. What are your policies for allowing visitors at the workplace? How will you track your visitors and ensure employee (and visitor) safety? If you’re a retail organization, this is a huge consideration. Likewise healthcare offices and other service providers. But even if your office seldom sees visitors, you should have a policy in place and communicate that policy to your employees. That way the next time somebody shows up for a job interview, for example, there are no questions about policy.

You should also think now about reducing on-site visitation to avoid needless risk. Encourage alternative safe practices with instant teleconferencing and video chat and contactless delivery. Educate and inform both your employees and your customers; each of these new policies should be communicated in full to the relevant stakeholders.

Resources and Communication Templates:

If the Worst Should Happen: An On-site Positive Case

This may be the single most important plan you need to make. What happens when somebody on-site tests positive for COVID-19? Have a plan in place to remove the infected individual from the job site, quarantine any others who have had extended contact with the individual, and cordon off the individual’s workspace so it can be thoroughly disinfected.

Resources and Communication Templates:

How Can Vonage and Whispir Help?

This is a lot of communicating to do, we know. But Vonage is here to guide you through this historic time, and we’ve partnered with Whispir to offer clear, useful templates for each piece of communication listed in this article. Treat them like a checklist and check off items and actions as you work through the templates to provide your team with the most up to date, comprehensive information possible. This is a frightening time for many people, and the best thing we can do as employers is to communicate clearly about our efforts to keep our employees healthy.

Whispir’s visual communications platform integrated with Vonage APIs enables you to create, design, deploy, and maintain communication journeys while providing the security and scalability required for modern businesses to scale and effectively engage their growing global audiences. 

Visit Whispir today for these communication templates and more. Let us make it easy for you to keep your employees and customers informed.

Alyssa Mazzina
Alyssa Mazzina

Alyssa is a Content Marketing Manager at Vonage. She's an experienced writer and editor specializing in communications technology and software. Alyssa lives in central California with her husband, 2 kids, 4 dogs, 2 snakes, and 2 rats.

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