Hello! Hi, it's me, your resident return-to-work expert (yes actual expert with over 20 years of return-to-work planning including SARS, natural disasters, outbreaks and more!)
Much of the return to work planning I have seen from major corporations over the next few months is this:
- We will be returning to work in office on x dates
- You will be expected to return to work IN OFFICE NO EXCEPTIONS
- You can submit your request by x date.
So here is the problem. That is not A PLAN. You are welcoming back a workforce that has collectively experienced trauma. Death. Illness. Unmeasurable stress. And you are doing a bad job.
When we do return to work planning for those who have been injured or experienced crippling stress we do the following:
- Needs assessment - what does our team need, individual plans, and other solutions.
- We present options - to set out the opportunities we have to show that not all workplaces work the same and neither do people.
- We review the potential for harm. Wearing masks may be a continued need for many - have you put out your anti-harassment policy again? Have you updated it for mask-wearing? This will be a choice for many.
- Have you made yourself available to answer questions about the plan? For people to provide feedback and suggestions?
- Have you empowered management with the tools and resources they need to successfully bring their team back in a way that works for them? Given them the freedom to make choices?
The final question you need to ask yourself is if you are willing to lose your top employee because you are not willing to listen and respect their individual needs.
If the answer is yes, I have a message from hundreds of other companies who are looking for your top talent - thank you - you have just handed us top-tier talent who is grateful to be part of an organization that respects them enough to treat them like capable adults.
Allison Venditti is an HR pro with over 20 years of experience. She is one of Canada's top return to work experts with a focus on disability management. She is the Founder of Moms at Work Canada's largest network and advocacy group for working mothers - in 2022 she was named on of the Globe and Mail Report on Business Top Changemakers - and it is only 3 months in. Watch out.