Navigating the Return to Work In-Person

Are we witnessing the end of the hybrid experiment? Not every business, especially small- to mid-sized companies, are able to have all of their employees work remotely. 

Beyond that, some areas have more compliance regulations that make it easier to simply have everyone in office. 

While some employers are sticking to remote work, even more are starting to ditch hybrid experiences. When having employees return, there are many things to keep in mind. Whether your organization is transitioning from remote work, adopting a hybrid model, or dealing with employees returning after a workers’ compensation claim, the HR department plays a pivotal role in ensuring a smooth and positive experience for all.

Crafting a Seamless Return-to-Work Strategy

How you approach the return to work sets the tone for the employees as a whole. That’s why strategy is the first step to putting a return to work approach in place. 

Begin by collaborating with key stakeholders to develop a comprehensive plan that aligns with the organization’s goals and employee needs. Business goals are important to include in the strategy and messaging because if productivity has not dwindled, employee pushback could be expected. 

Consider factors such as flexible scheduling, remote work options, and enhanced safety protocols to accommodate varying preferences and health concerns.

Communication is Key

Keep employees informed at every stage of the return-to-work process. Transparent and timely communication helps manage expectations and reduce uncertainty. Leverage various channels, including company-wide emails, virtual town halls, and internal messaging platforms, to keep everyone in the loop.

Conducting a survey also is a good way to gauge employee sentiment and plan for issues that you might have to address. Simple questions can include: 

  • How would you categorize your feelings about returning to in-office work?
  • What are your concerns about returning?
  • What are some means or offerings that would make the transition easier for you? For your family? 

That final question is important, yet many companies and organizations don’t take into account the change of work location has on an employee’s family. 

Provide employees with flexibility in their work schedules. Consider adopting flexible start and end times, compressed workweeks, or alternating days in the office to accommodate diverse preferences and personal commitments.

Implement engagement initiatives to boost morale and foster a positive work environment. Organize welcome-back events, team-building activities, or wellness programs to help employees reconnect and readjust to the office setting. A happy and engaged workforce is more likely to thrive in the workplace.

And if you’re still able to offer a hybrid work model, consider scheduling, communication, and technology integration…along with other industry-specific compliance needs. 

Leverage technology solutions that facilitate seamless collaboration between in-office and remote teams. Video conferencing tools, project management platforms, and communication apps play a vital role in maintaining connectivity and productivity.

Returning After Workers’ Compensation: A Compassionate Approach

When an employee returns to work after a workers’ compensation claim, it’s essential to approach the situation with empathy and sensitivity. HR professionals can play a pivotal role in ensuring a smooth reintegration process.

A three-pronged approach might be an appropriate option for your organization. 

Individualized Return Plans

Work closely with the employee and relevant stakeholders to create an individualized return plan that considers their physical and emotional well-being. This may involve temporary modifications to their role, providing additional support, or gradual reintegration to full-time duties.

Open Communication Channels

Establish open lines of communication with the returning employee. Regular check-ins and feedback sessions allow HR professionals to address concerns, monitor progress, and make necessary adjustments to support the employee’s successful return to work.

Educate the Team

Foster a culture of understanding and support within the team. Educate colleagues about the returning employee’s situation to dispel any misconceptions and promote a welcoming atmosphere. Encourage open dialogue to address concerns and promote a collaborative work environment.


As HR professionals, your role in managing the return to work is instrumental in shaping the future of work dynamics. By embracing flexibility, prioritizing employee engagement, and handling workers’ compensation returns with compassion, we can contribute to a workplace that not only survives but thrives in the evolving landscape. Taking this approach allows you to continue to be the architects of positive workplace experiences, ensuring that every employee feels valued, supported, and motivated to excel in their roles.