Employee Communications Guidance: Week of 5/25

With regions of the U.S. easing lockdown restrictions to varying degrees, companies are taking one of two paths as they plan for return-to-work: calling workers back to manufacturing sites and offices or implementing longer remote work policies (many through the end of the year).

Here are the trends we’re seeing on the employee communication and engagement front this week:

Legal experts share employee rights on returning to work. As the U.S. follows Asian and European economies and workplaces in reopening, experts share timely advice on workers’ rights. Within existing and new legislation, employees with underlying health conditions and childcare challenges – as well as those who feel unsafe going into sites – are offered certain protections. Businesses are advised to closely follow official guidance and offer flexible arrangements to employees with special circumstances.

Hazard pay concludes for most frontline workers. Major retailers are ending the bonuses offered to essential workers despite employee and union pushback. Most are shifting investments to conduct testing and ongoing protective measures to focus on a longer-term solution as lockdowns are lifted. As communities begin to relax restrictions, it’s important that employers continue to educate and remind employees of new plans and protocols that keep them and customers safe and cared for.

Designing a post-COVID workspace with long-term employee interests in mind. Amid heavy chatter on office redesign as a solution for at-work distancing, one global design firm cautions employers from rushing into reopening their offices without sufficient consideration for long-term implications. In this Fast Company article, authors counsel on the prioritization of wellbeing in making return and design decisions, gathering employee input on needs and desires, and embracing flexibility.

Survey: Employees are happier but working harder. According to the latest CNBC and Survey Monkey Workplace Happiness Survey, 38% of Americans are happier with their job now than before the outbreak, a possible shift in their views and expectations on work in light of the growing unemployment rate. That’s true even as more than half of workers say their jobs have become more difficult due to challenges such as homeschooling children or the stress around safety for essential workers. As it stands, 44% remain worried about losing their jobs or having their hours reduced as we face a still-uncertain future.

Reimagining corporate culture previously cultivated in person. Without employees bumping into one another in the hallway, partaking in communal kitchen chatter and sharing live happy hours, companies are struggling to translate their mission, vision and values to build a vibrant online corporate culture. Employers must reshape what employee engagement and culture building looks like in the new normal, including new leadership and management skills, as well as long-term virtual recognition and engagement activities to strengthen relationships and build loyalty.

*If you have questions or are seeking counsel, please reach out to Carla Keppler at ckeppler@golin.com.