No one was prepared for this. And now that confinement is slowly subsiding, the incline of employers is to go back to where they left it in March 2020. It was working well before so why changing it?
The reality is that employees are no longer the same. In fact, employees fear returning to the workplace. The complacency with which they previously approached the workplace is now gone. Simple things such as shaking hands or touching things create fear and anxiety. And just breathing in an enclosed space cause concerns.
Over the last few years, you have likely worked hard on engagement. Efforts now need to be redoubled to ensure your workplace supports these sensitivities and new expectations. You need to help your employees overcome their fear of returning to the office.
Doing just that is not easy. Most of my clients feel it was easier to shut down in March 2020, than it is to reopen. They are looking for instructions providing step by step how to go about reopening. Should all the employees return to the office? How to stagger the return? What type of policies are needed? How about the changes of roles and expectations? Would a hybrid structure work?
It makes total sense to ask these questions in order to outline a return to work plan. In this article, we will raise the questions in order to properly build your plan.
First, how bruised is your culture?
Does your culture needs healing after layoffs, or closures, which drastically changed your workforce. Or perhaps the pandemic resulted in losing your bearings. Resulting in disconnecting from your values and principles.
Covid-19 has significantly impacted the culture of all organizations. But those that went into the crisis with a healthy culture have weathered the storm far better than those that did not. Where do you fit in?
The pandemic is not only altering how your organizations do business. It’s testing your ability to preserve the thriving cultures that make business possible.
Have you ever looked at other companies and wondered why they seem to get all the best people? Do you ever wish you could have your own superstars working for you?
Implementing a culture of testing and learning is to openly lead with vulnerability and admit you don’t know everything. The pandemic has forced business owners to lead with a huge tolerance for ambiguity and the acceptance of a perpetual learning curve.
Without thoughtful consideration for all potential consequences, the pressure and urgency made it tempting to act quickly. Ask yourself the following questions: which changes made over the last 18 months are sustainable? How did your supervisors show up? Which employees adjusted best to the changes? How effective were the changes you made on processes? Have you developed training courses to your employees in order to learn new skills for a more virtual workplace? Have you invested enough on sophisticated networks and cybersecurity?
What can be learned from the experience? What could be done differently next time? How could this experience support others to achieve better outcomes next time?
Second, on a scale of 1 to 10 how effective was your communication to your employees?
Did you know that mental noise in high-stress situations reduces the ability to process information by 80%, on average? And that under stress attention spans shrink to just 12 minutes or less?
In times of heightened anxiety and stress, employees react more favorably to trusted messengers or individuals they know and respect. How did the pandemic tested how much your employees trust you as their leader? Have you been avoiding making decisions in a vacuum?
Have you shown to your employees that you really care? How did you help them diffusing their anxiety? Did you make yourself available to your employees? Have you communicated what you are doing to support your employees? How did you help your team to stay connected? Have you addressed their fears of working from the office?
Going forward, how will you communicate to your employees the return to work plan?
Third, how did you balance organizational structure and financial survival?
Did you know that more than 77% of Canadian employees would consider leaving their current organization for the same pay if their new workplace offered better support for their personal well-being? And that 60% would do the same even if it means being paid less?
During times of uncertainty, business owners are required to transition from being traditional bosses to modern mentors capable of helping their employees navigate the psychological uncertainty of a radically different work experience.
What changes have you made in the way you lead your employees? How successful have you been balancing your financial outcomes and your employees’ personal needs?
Recognition has never been more important because it gives the most essential part of any business a desperately needed sense of appreciation and security during times of uncertainty and transition. How have you been recognizing your employees?
Putting it all together
Business owners gained 18 months of learning, adjusting, changing, closing and reopening. You are certainly ahead than where you were in March 2020. Take stock of what went really well and what needs to stop. Reflect on all the questions we raised in this article. And reset. Make sure you set the framework for a fearless return to work.
I will ask you to ponder on one of my favourites quotes from Mary Angelou:
People will forget what you said. People will forget what you did. But people will NEVER forget how you made them feel.