Employee Communication is Key to Gaining Support for Your Return-to-the-Office Plan


Brad Rye

Senior Vice President, Managing Director

With COVID-19 vaccines becoming more widely available, many employers are in the process of developing their return-to-the-office and remote work policies. Regardless of which path(s) your company takes, it’s fair to say that there’s likely not a model that will be universally embraced within your organization. That means it’s essential to the health of your business that you effectively communicate your plan.

Indeed, how companies communicate about their decision—in terms of both messages and actions—will have a significant impact on employee engagement, morale, productivity and satisfaction. Achieving a high level of employee support and acceptance requires a thoughtfully planned, highly detailed and carefully executed employee communications plan to explain your company’s approach to this vitally important issue.

To that end, you’ll want to include an employee communications professional as a member of the planning and policy committee. By participating in the discussions, this individual can provide counsel to the committee as it reviews options and gain direct access to the information needed to develop the communications plan.

A robust communications action plan begins by spelling out the business outcomes you want to achieve based on your company’s policy—think in terms of employee retention, recruitment, culture and engagement, customer satisfaction and retention, and revenue growth and profitability—and a roadmap for getting there. It also includes communication objectives, strategies and tactics, a timeline of key dates and methods for measuring results.

Strong, effective messages serve as the foundation of your employee communications program. Consider three-by-three messaging, determining the three main messages you want to communicate and three supporting statements for each. Then, put those points into plain-language, easy-to-remember messages that are clear, compelling, credible and concise.

Your remote work policy will have a significant impact, both professionally and personally, on most of your employees. So it’s essential that you be as specific as possible, incorporating facts, when available, regarding the point you want to make in a message or supporting statement. For example, rather than simply stating that you’re implementing a partially remote work policy because “it’s better for our business,” cite two or three aspects of your business that you’ve determined will be improved through this arrangement. If possible, incorporate data to validate your points.

Once messaging has been established, consider developing a theme or tagline for the communication program. In fact, think of this effort as a campaign, designed to inform and persuade. These several words, your campaign theme, should reflect the intent and purpose of your overarching, most important message, serving to motivate and inspire employees.

The plan should include a calendar that features a regular schedule of communication activities and tactics over the course of at least three months. These tactics may include all-staff and department meetings, video messages, employee testimonials, podcasts and more, timed to ensure communications consistently deliver your key messages in the right format at the right time.

Ideally, an employee survey should take place as your plan and policies are being developed. Then, to gauge progress toward achieving the desired outcomes of your communications plan, it’s a good practice to include a series of additional employee surveys and other means of gaining employee feedback. That input may lead you to revise messages and tactics, if necessary.

Because your company’s return-to-the-office and remote work policies are of great interest and importance to employees, you don’t want to leave any aspect of communications to chance or the last minute. A multifaceted, well-executed employee communications plan will go a long way in gaining employee support and acceptance of your company’s policies.

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