By Melanie Gibbons, Commtractor, Communications Professional, Owner of ELM Communications  

This week National Cabinet is going to meet to discuss lifting restrictions. With a focus on getting the economy back up and running, there is a high likelihood that we will be heading back to the office.

Now is the time to start developing your internal communications plan for re-entry. You don’t need to wait until it happens to start the planning process. You don’t need to know when, you need to know what you are going to say and do to engage your staff when getting back to normal.

Your staff will need support for this transition. It’s a change communications plan. How you communicate and engage with staff in the first days, weeks and months will be critical. Your staff need a way to transition back into working in the office every day, working in a team, collaborating face to face with others. Internal communications is going to be vital during this period.

It is an opportunity for your organisation to demonstrate that they value their people, that they can empathise with the challenges they have faced and to demonstrate your culture. The key during this period will be visibility of the leader, the Executive and Managers, that will mean it’s critical for you to support them.

Here are a few things you can consider for your communications plan:

Message from the top

Time for the Secretary or the CEO to set the tone for the re-entry. This could be in a video or written note to staff, but it will be important to be clear about what you know and what you won’t on day one, week one, the first month. Your leaders won’t have all the answers, but now is the time to be honest with your staff. Staff will want to know what is coming next and what has changed.

It is also time for leaders to share some of their personal experience during working from home, what have they learnt, and habits have they changed.

Engagement from the Executive

You will need to engage your broader Executive group early and get them ready. Executive are going to be critical communications channels during this period. They will need to be meeting with their staff, providing reassurance and resetting expectations. Key here will be for the Executive to communicate what the priorities are now and how have they shifted from the pre-COVID world.

Support managers

Ensure that part of your communications plan is providing dedicated support to team leaders. They are the ones that will get all of the questions from staff. Consider bringing them back to the office first and having a team leader meeting (face to face or virtually) allowing them to ask their questions and raise their concerns. Keep them up to date with a dedicated channel during the first few months. They will need support to engage their staff and rebuild their team bonds.

Bring some fun to the office

This is time to rebuild teams and engage your staff. To do that it can’t be all policy, process and priorities. You need to get creative and generate some fun in the office. Make people happy to be back. Give everyone a coffee voucher for the local coffee shop. Run a quiz. Do an office treasure hunt.

New channels

Now is also time to review the new communications channels you introduced during COVID. Were video messages more successful than you expected? Did the weekly newsletter get good readership? Time to consider if you need to introduce these as ongoing channels of communication.

Get started!

Don’t forget to engage across corporate services to ensure that you have coordinated and consistent messages from all of your enabling colleagues. It will be important not to bombard everyone upon their return!

Communications has become even more important during this period, and now is your time to shine. You can demonstrate how valuable your services are as you support getting the organisation back to normal.

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