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Supporting managers in the return to work

Supporting your managers in the post-COVID return to work

Reading Time: 4 minutes

With the ‘new normal’ starting to come to fruition across our workplaces, many are returning to office/factory/classroom etc. But there are a lot of issues, precautions and caveats to consider, especially for customer-facing businesses. 

While everyone has new rules and responsibilities to bear in mind, it falls to managers to actually enforce those rules, keep everyone safe, and deal with irate customers who fail to wear a mask or socially distance themselves. So employers must consider how to best provide an effective return to work support for managers.

Proper safety training is vital in supporting managers

In order to keep people safe, re-opened businesses are facing significant changes to the way they operate. Customer-facing businesses like pubs and restaurants can only take in very limited numbers, while other organisations must reorganise the office to enable social distancing. In general, it’s really important for managers to receive effective training and guidance, although not everyone gets it. One survey of 500 managers found that a whopping 98% agreed that managers need more training. Without proper guidance, bosses can’t be expected to be able to identify flaws in their management style.

More specifically, providing effective return to work support for managers means ensuring that they’re trained to manage the new protocol effectively. As well as enforcing general social distancing guidelines, it’s important for managers to oversee the implementation and maintenance of hygiene stations in the workplace, manage staff anxiety, and if necessary, de-escalate situations with members of the public.

Managers have a duty of care to their employees, who may also be under a lot of stress and anxiety during the return to work. When dealing with an anxious or stressed employee, and especially at a time like this, line managers need to be empathetic and emotionally supportive. Training can play a major role in whether they succeed at this, especially for those new to leadership roles. 

Supporting managers in the return to work: Shifting from work from home to working in the office
Many meetings are now happening back in the office again it seems.

Clear, concise and frequent communication is essential

Managers need effective ways to communicate, and not just because of all the face masks. Not only do they need to be able to coordinate their team effectively, but they must also be able to reach the higher-ups. With that in mind, one thing employers can do to provide return to work support for managers is to make themselves as accessible as possible.

It’s also about providing the proper tools, as well as guidance for using them. Asynchronous communication is vital for team management, so every line manager needs a good tool for it. For organising shift patterns and calling in cover for sick employees, WhatsApp is ideal, because you can just put the phone numbers of everyone on your team into a group chat. For project management, it can be well worth choosing a service like Slack, which allows you to create channels for different purposes.

But that’s just basic, day-to-day communication. If you think that’s all there is to consider, you’re forgetting a key aspect of the return to work support for managers: Effective feedback tools. That’s right; anyone waiting to see how long it took is to mention feedback in this article can stop holding their breath!

Even in normal circumstances, an effective system for giving and receiving feedback is a pillar of good workplace management. Now, with everyone adapting to the challenges of the return to work, timely feedback is more necessary than ever. After all, line managers can hardly be expected to be able to guide their team through these changes if they can’t critique performance and collect employee feedback.

Regular check-ins, such as those we provide at Weekly10, can massively benefit line managers struggling in the return to work. Check-ins take just a handful of minutes to complete, and reviewing an employee’s update is just as easy.

Check-ins allow managers to guide employee performance while monitoring their engagement and wellbeing with a range of customisable, personalised questions. But just as importantly, it gives employees a means of giving feedback to their manager, and of highlighting any workplace issues affecting their performance. In normal circumstances (the job market doesn’t look too appealing right now) regular check-ins can even reduce turnover.

Supporting managers in the return to work: Are your teams moving back in to the traditional workspace?
A mix of working from home and time in the office seems most likely for many office-based organisations.

Employers have a duty of care to their managers

We’ve touched on the duty of care a manager has to their employees, but employers also have the same duty of care to their line managers, who are taking on the same level of risk to their physical wellbeing as their employees, especially in customer-facing roles.

Line managers also have the responsibility of supporting members of their team through the anxiety of returning to work. Employees are also potentially dealing with uncertain work situations that can negatively impact their financial wellbeing, as well as their sense of belonging within the organisation.

All of this is to say that the pressure being put on to line managers at the moment poses a huge risk to their mental health. Forms of return to work support for managers not only need to include proper guidance from business leaders, but also access to counselling and other mental health resources. 

Just as managers are expected to maintain two-way feedback with their staff, employers need to be prepared to receive feedback from their line managers on the ground about what they need to be able to handle the demands of re-opening. However, if feedback is simply ignored, it can cause resentment and a deterioration of social wellbeing; so employers also need to be prepared to take manager feedback into serious consideration.

It’s worth remembering that at the moment, everyone is trying to feel their way through this. The only way for businesses to succeed is through consistent communication and collaboration across all levels of an organisation.

If you want to learn more about having the proper return to work support for managers in your business, or you want to learn more about employee engagement in general, there’s no better place to visit than the Weekly10 blog!

Our weekly check-in is perfect for helping your people communicate in a clear, more timely and habit-forming way. Want a sneak peek?

Founder & CEO