If you hear “return-to-work” and instantly feel anxiety, you’re not alone. So many people feel worried about the uncertainty in their day-to-day lives, and companies and managers are faced with added pressure to come up with the perfect transition plan.

Navigating moments of significant change can prove challenging for even the most seasoned managers, especially when so much of it is out of your control.

So, we put together this step-by-step guide for how to talk to your employees about the constantly changing dynamics of your workplace.

Step 1: Create an ongoing dialogue

Whether you’re talking about coming back to the office, continuing remotely, or transitioning to a new hybrid arrangement, think of the return-to-work discussion as an ongoing dialogue instead of a one-and-done conversation. You want to establish an open dialogue with your team members that allows everyone to give and receive input as the situation evolves and plans change.

Step 2: Listen to your employees

More than 60% of workers are concerned about the return-to-work transition. Your job will be a lot easier – and your outcomes more likely positive – if you take the time to listen to your employees’ concerns.

Are they dreading the long commute? Do they need to be closer to home? Are they still juggling kids in virtual learning? Take note of how your company’s policies impact their lives and do your best to address their individual needs.

Step 3: Explain your thinking

Once your company confirms a new work policy, resist the temptation to simply hit the “forward” button. Those companies that have maintained clearer lines of communications with employees during the pandemic have seen better employee wellbeing and higher productivity.

Call a meeting or draft a detailed explanation of how you and senior leadership landed on the company’s plans. Walk your team through the details and discuss what you think the implementation and execution will actually look like.  

Step 4: Give a longer-term view

After you explain the immediate roll-out of your company’s new work arrangements, make sure you share the longer-term view. This is especially important when nearly half of workers say their company’s failure to provide a clear post-pandemic vision has made them feel anxious.

Does your company plan to reevaluate its policies in six months? Are you investing in new benefits or greater accessibility for remote employees? Are you planning to create new offices or hubs closer to where people live? Involving your team in the longer-term planning will help them better prepare for what’s ahead. And, it will keep the lines of communication open for your team to share their needs, concerns, and feedback.

Step 5: Ask for questions and provide answers

Many employees may be nervous about asking more questions or requesting additional accommodations, but that doesn’t mean those needs should go unaddressed. Even after 18+ months of WFH and unprecedented stress levels, more than one-third of employees still aren’t comfortable talking about fundamental issues like burnout with their managers.

The onus is on you to ask your employees to share their unanswered questions. Create a safe place for them to share – whether it’s a one-on-one meeting or an anonymous forum. And then, provide thoughtful answers to those questions and concerns.

Step 6: (Repeat Step 1) Leave the door open for future conversations

The plan comes full circle with maintaining the dialogue and acknowledging that things will continue to change. Workplace norms and behaviors have evolved faster in the past two years than they did over the past two decades.

Managers who acknowledge the iterative nature of making plans in this kind of environment will gain the trust and loyalty of their employees, who, in turn, will be better positioned to grow and succeed in their own career paths.