Offices are opening up again around the world, yet getting employees back through the doors is, for many companies, a great challenge. Since the world of work turned upside down in the first half of 2020, remote work has become the predominant way of working for many.
Now that so many have experienced what it’s like to work from home, the thought of returning to the office is unpalatable.
For many employees, going back to the office raises several big questions such as:
- Will there be COVID-19 precautions in place?
- Am I going to have the same work schedule flexibility?
- What if I’m not as productive as I have been working remotely?
To ensure a smooth return to the office, it’s important to acknowledge and address these objections and the best way to do that is with a return to work letter.
What is a Return to Work Letter?
A return to work letter isn’t a new concept designed to bring employees back to the office post-COVID. It’s standard protocol for many companies to send this type of letter to an employee in the following instances:
- Sabbatical - A sabbatical is when an employee takes a leave of absence for personal reasons
- Furlough - Furlough is an obligatory leave of absence due to unforeseen circumstances or emergency situations such as the COVID-19 pandemic
- Family leave - Under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) employees can take time off for medical and family reasons
With a return to work letter, the goal is to inform and outline expectations. However, in this case, you’re going to want to go into more detail.
The COVID-19 pandemic is an unprecedented event and, as such, to write an effective return to work letter you need to cover a lot more ground.
How to Write an Effective Return to Work Letter
What’s usually a formality is now an important task as you have to strike a delicate balance between making employees feel heard and understood but also letting them know that you expect their presence at the office again.
With that being said, there are ways you can come across as compassionate without compromising on your goal of getting employees back to the office.
Here’s a simple five-step guide to writing a return to work letter:
Address the Employee
As with any letter, start by addressing the recipient appropriately. In this case, this means writing any relevant information about the employee in question.
This usually includes the following:
- Full name
- Job title
This may seem obvious. But it’s often overlooked by companies that send return to work letters en masse.
Lay out the Reasons for Sending the Letter
This next section is arguably the most important. This is where you’ll set the tone of the letter and show the employee that you understand their concerns.
Given the circumstances, we’d highly recommend that you empathize with the employee here and use a friendly tone.
Briefly explain the reasons behind the return to the office so that employees feel it’s justified, and take the opportunity to remind them of the benefits of working in-office. You might like to mention the following, for example:
- The opportunities to socialize
- Growth opportunities and professional skill development
- Any perks or benefits you’re going to introduce
This is an excellent way to dissolve any resistance an employee may feel about returning to the office.
Explain the Specifics of Their Return
Now, it’s time to get specific and lay out the details of your employee’s return.
Outline the time and date of their expected return, along with any additional information pertaining to their return.
This portion of the letter is your opportunity to clear up any doubts your employees may have upon their return to the office.
If there are any actions you require the employee to take before they set foot in the office again, for example, you can list them out in bullet point form at the end of the letter so even the skimmers will take note.
Inform Employees of Any Changes to Their Role
After outlining the specifics of the employee’s return, it’s time to fill them in on any changes to their role or department.
Here’s your opportunity to bring up your expectations and remind employees of what their roles and responsibilities are. During the stint of remote work, it’s possible that some employees assumed new responsibilities or no longer had to handle certain tasks.
That’s why it’s critical that you list out exactly what you expect them to do upon their return to the office.
It could also be that office or policy changes (that you’ll explain in the final part of the letter) affect how they work. As such, you’ll want to reflect that in this section with their new responsibilities.
Outline Policy or Office Changes that Affect Them
Finally, give your employee a rundown on everything that will be different on their return to the office.
For some companies, it might be the case that the work model has changed from exclusively in-office working to hybrid work. For others, it could be that the office has been reconfigured to imitate the casual working-from-home atmosphere.
Whatever changes you’ve made to company policy or the office itself, now’s the time to state them.
After you’ve walked employees through all major and minor changes, wrap up the letter by bringing them up to date with any COVID-19 precautions you have in place. This can include anything from social distancing expectations to locations of hand sanitizer stations or a link to an online FAQ that breaks down all the changes in an easy-to-digest format.
Return to Work Letter Template
Now you know what to include in your return to work letter, how about a template to make your life easier?
[Your Company name]
[Your Company Address]
Subject line: Return to work information for [Employee’s name] [ID] [Other relevant employee information]
Dear [Employee’s name],
[Your Company name] wishes to inform you that your period of remote working time is coming to an end, and we want to welcome you back to the office on [date and time of return].
We understand that the transition may be challenging, but we can assure you we’re taking every step to make it as smooth as possible.
Upon your return you’ll have the opportunity to [list benefits of working in the office such as: socialize with your coworkers, develop your professional skills through mentorship programs, and take advantage of our newly-developed wellness classes].
The scope of your role may have changed recently, so here’s a refresher of your general responsibilities within the office:
[Bullet point list of old and new responsibilities]
[Your Company name] is taking every precaution to make the office a safe place, which is why we’re introducing the following changes:
[List all COVID-19 related health and safety protocols]
We’ve also made some changes to the office to make the transition from remote working as seamless as possible:
[List any changes made in light of the pandemic]
Finally, make sure you’ve completed and submitted the following documents before your date of return.
[List any documents employers need to complete]
We’re willing to work with you to make the return to office work as productive and pleasant as possible, so you can reply with any queries or suggestions you have to this email address.
(Your job title)
(Your contact information)
Make the Return to Work Easier with Insightful
Determining productivity levels when employees return to the office is important, since you want to make sure the transition from remote working is smooth. Identifying performance metrics for employees from the outset can help you understand how everyone is coping with the return, and reduce the risk of burnout which can in turn lead to quiet quitting.
With monitoring software Insightful, it’s easy to both single out important metrics for productivity and measure them on an ongoing basis to evaluate individual and team performance over time.
Here are the benefits of using online tracking app Insightful for in-office working:
Keep Employees Accountable
By implementing desktop tracking at the office, you can keep employees accountable with regular screenshots and regular reviews of the time data.
One of the greatest threats to modern businesses is quiet quitting. A form of labor protest against poor work conditions or work-life balance, quiet quitting can show up as disengagement or burnout.
To understand when employees are on the path to burnout, you can use app tracking software to identify sustained slumps in productivity. At this point, you can step in and seek to understand how you can help the employee in question feel less pressure from their job.
At its core, an employee monitoring tool such as Insightful is a concrete way of tracking and evaluating performance. By monitoring screens, you can gather valuable time data and then use the advanced monitor computer software features to build a clear picture of how the employees’ time is being spent.