What to Consider When Building a Return-to-Work Plan

return to work plan

Since the onset of the pandemic, work has taken on a new form. Gone are the days where everyone is required to “physically” report to work. For some, working from home has made life more convenient and sustainable. This then begs the question; will anyone ever have to return to an actual office again? The answer likely lies between, no, maybe and yes. Many company leaders still feel having employees together, in-person allows for more collaboration, more camaraderie and helps enhance their culture. In fact, a survey from Glassdoor conducted by The Harris Poll revealed socializing with coworkers (52%) and in-person work collaboration (46%) top the list of reasons employees would want to return to the office. 

Is there a way to encourage employees to return to work, make them feel comfortable with in-person interaction and make sure they feel their concerns are being heard? The answer is yes. There are tools available that can help establish this precedent once again by rewarding employees to get their COVID-19 vaccine and providing them a way to anonymously share their concerns with their employer. 

Before we describe how employers can entice employees to get the vaccine, let us disclose something they cannot do: employers cannot incentivize family members to get vaccinated. Doing so would infringe on the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA), which “prohibits employers from requiring family medical history from workers” (Market Watch). Employers need to understand this information before any action is taken by their employees. 

Now that this has been established, let’s explore ways employers and brokers can find a simply smarter way to reward their employees/clients’ employees and get back to the office. 

Ensuring the Workplace is Safe 

Being able to reassure your staff that the workplace is safe is one of the most important things you can do to bring them back to the office. Many people might be hesitant to return because they might think the workplace is not sanitary or one of their coworkers will get them sick. That is why it would be wise for employers to incorporate policies like spacing workstations, transparent cleaning protocols, as well as continuing the practice of social distancing. Making people feel as safe as possible is the main objective in helping them return to work. Knowing your company promotes a culture of health and wellness will also ease employee concern about returning to work and improve morale. Regarding employees being vaccinated, this will further ensure that the workplace is safe. In a recent report by Perceptyx based upon a survey of more than 1,000 workers, 56% would get the vaccine if encouraged to do so by their employer. Of those surveyed, 60% would get the vaccine if their employers offered a monetary incentive of $100 to do so. 

A Flexible Schedule 

We’ve been working from home for long time. So, employees will need a period of readjustment as they come back into the workplace. According to Global Workplace Analytics, “40% more U.S. employers offer flexible work schedules today, compared to five years prior - and that estimate is from before the onset of COVID-19” (Malone). Incorporating aspects such as staggered shifts or flextime can help ease the transition for most employees returning. The staggered shifts will reduce contact between employees and minimize congestion, while flextime can let staff work their full weekly hours but at their own discretion. Having these options available, even if just for a limited time, will further incentivize employees to want to return to work. 

Utilizing Incentive-Based Programs 

Bonuses and rewards have always been a great way to increase morale and show employees that you care. On top of these methods, other incentives can be just as beneficial such as a return to work bonus, retention bonus, or an attendance bonus (Malone). Utilizing one or more of these strategies in this transition period from home to in-person will help bolster employees to show up and perform their best work.  

Clarity’s SimplyWell Rewards is another incentive-based program you can now utilize. Through the new product suite, we’re offering our clients’ employees a reward rather than a mandate to help them increase vaccine adoption and increase the number of employees voluntarily willing to return to the office. SimplyWell Rewards helps employers accelerate the safe reopening of their offices by getting more people onboard faster. This includes preferred pricing for existing customers, bundled pricing for new customers, getting up and running fast, as well as full HIPAA and privacy law compliance. So, what makes our reward program different? We have deep experience managing consumer benefits by applying easy administration, customizable options, lifestyle and tax-free options, full compliance, and a connection to your existing Clarity plans (see how the process works below).  

How it Works 


Getting started is easy. Simply provide Clarity with a list of your employees and determine the award amount you want to offer - we do the rest.    Employees submit digital proof (upload or email photo of CDC vaccine card, vaccination records, or signed doctor note) and each submission is verified.    Your employees receive a Clarity Benefit Card loaded with their reward. This card can be used anywhere that accepts MasterCard.


Accepting Change and the Importance of Communication 

Employers and brokers need to realize that the people who will be returning are not the same ones they knew over a year ago. Our needs, our expectations and our work habits have changed. People now expect more flexibility, more work-life balance and overall, more understanding and empathy towards their needs. As a result, employers should understand that they are stronger because of it. Empathy at this stage is critical in further retaining these employees and clients in the long run – especially with the high-turnover rates. So how do you show empathy? The answer lies in how you communicate with your employees. Returning to an office can be daunting after a tumultuous year prior but communicating can help ease the anxiety many might be experiencing. It’s a good idea to communicate policies, changes, and expectations across different platforms, such as employee emails, manager meetings, along with other relevant sources. This is another period of rapid change, and your team needs help anticipating what’s next (Fast Company). After everything is laid out, they will likely feel more at ease. 

The End Result 

Incentive programs, like SimplyWell Rewards, are a great option to give workers that last push to leave their homes and come back to work. If you think your employees or clients’ employees are on the fence on whether to return to work, get the vaccine, or both, this program might be beneficial to you in more ways than just one.