The workplace had changed. As we start to loosen Covid-19 related restrictions, businesses are emerging from Coronavirus induced hibernation. These transitions back to work are gradual. Uncertainty will remain for months as threats of a second wave of coronavirus persist.
In this new world leaders must be empathetic to keep teams engaged, cohesive and forward-focused. Leaders must demonstrate both purpose and optimism to reinforce the idea that an uncertain future has the potential to be a better future. Below are seven steps for leading your team into this new world:
- Define what success looks like and move toward it
Business leaders must imagine what post-recovery success looks like. Once you’ve clarified goals, reverse-engineer the next steps for quick and effective action. Envisioning what success will involve frees up thinking about the present and can help teams identify quick wins.
- Make productivity sustainable
Today’s remote workforce demands new thinking about organising work. Establish clear boundaries to ensure sustainable working hours and productivity. Teams must discuss office hours, share tips on time-tracking and set clear expectations about responding to emails.
- Document your recovery playbook.
Resuming work requires answers to questions such as where to begin, how to keep employees and customers safe and healthy, when to communicate and what the next steps are.
Whether it be leading and communicating change, prioritising the health and wellbeing of team members or encouraging empathy, leaders should start discussions in the workplace around these critical areas as they develop plans to keep their people and businesses moving through a recovery. As an example, Tesla’s leaders designed a return to work playbook outlining the company’s plan to provide a safe and healthy work environment for its employees.
- Practice empathy
Expecting all employees to resume a so-called normal work life isn’t realistic. The Covid-19 crisis impacted everybody. Be mindful of the ongoing health concerns employees have for friends and family, the challenges of juggling childcare and homeschooling or the stress of navigating the crisis’s financial impact
- Provide access to support for emotional wellness
When employees do begin to return to the workplace, they’ll be dealing with various emotions. People may experience feelings of loss, sadness and grief — emotions that will inevitably impact the way they work and how teams perform.
Leaders must help employees work through these emotions by providing access to support resources and help them navigate sensitive and mental health conversations in the workplace.
- Re-open with a people first culture in place
As you re-open and reset your business, put your employee’s needs at the forefront. That means more than creating a physically safe workplace. According to a Harvard Business Review article on returning to work, here’s what leaders should do:
- Outline the conditions to re-open safely to bring people back to offices.
- Define how many people can return over a staggered period while ensuring connection with people continuing at home.
- Continue delivering honest, transparent communication with all people while highlighting the organisation’s vision, values and core focus.
- Appreciate, recognise, and celebrate inspiring people within the organisation and how they make a difference.
- Be mindful of people’s different circumstances and gain a deeper understanding and appreciation of individual needs.
- Begin conversations with your people about what the future looks like through reconnecting with a purpose to stimulate innovation and new growth.
- Remain connected with people who have exited the organisation to enable potential hires as new opportunities emerge.
- Listen to your employees
Remote working has exposed the costs and efficiencies of expanding a virtual working infrastructure. For many people, remote work eliminated commuting time, allowing them more quality time with family — many employees won’t want to give that up.
You may need to look to reconfigure your workspace and shift your thinking about how teams collaborate in shared space. Listening to your people with the aim of understanding will be crucial in resetting work environments.