Getting back to work.

Having spent so much time in panic mode, companies are now thinking about how to start moving forward.

We know that things can’t go backwards (and why would we want them to?) but we also don’t really know how we can move forwards. In the midst of all the uncertainty, there are some key steps that we can take as employers, team players, collaborators and fellow humans to make sure that we are supporting people as well as we can.

Find out what your staff think, want & need

Don’t assume staff are desperate to get back into the office, but also don’t assume they’re loving working from home and not having to deal with the daily commute.

Many people are currently struggling to continue working alongside other essential responsibilities; childcare, other caring duties, emotional support, looking after those who are most vulnerable at this time, and many other duties. There are a significant number of people who are really struggling to get through each day, simply because of the additional workload, not to mention the mental strain.

Many people don’t have somewhere comfortable to work at home, others aren’t safe in their homes. Some are dealing with loss and grief, others are trying to support a partner who has lost their income. These people often go unnoticed and it’s often difficult for many to communicate these issues to your place of work.

There are also people who are twice as productive, loving the extra time and have found a new and improved way to work. Would you want to put them back into an office environment if it was going to curtail their productivity, happiness and creativity?

How can you find out what your staff really think, want and need at the moment? Try to ensure that the trust is there, and if they confide in you make sure to be respectful and listen. Importantly, follow up on anything that you say you’ll do.

If you can afford it, invest in external support. Ask your staff to share their thoughts with an external body and collect this whenever possible anonymously: people will share more and be more honest. This will pay dividends in the long run.

Invest in training and support

Think about the issues that have come up during this period.

  • Do you need more internal IT support?

  • Do you need to look at how to build and grow employee networks that can help teams build stronger bonds and resilience?

  • Do you need to offer staff training in intercultural communications for dealing with your overseas clients?

  • Do you need to offer staff unconscious bias training to help break down any barriers or problems happening internally?

  • Can you offer them training in new areas that could help them become better employees? You may have found that some of your staff have taken to the heightened responsibility like a duck to water; use this and support them to take on leadership roles if that’s an option.

Are there areas that staff are interested in learning more about?

Talk to them. Think where you could support them better. Invest in them and they’ll invest in your organisation. This shake up has given us a depth of opportunities we would never have experienced otherwise – use this opportunity to learn and try to take something from it.

Keep communication lines open and clear

Now is the time to show staff that any news habits which have been created, any new lines of support or communication that have developed, won’t disappear.

Keep communication simple and direct. You can even consider training in Plain English if you have large teams spread over a number of offices or geographical locations.

Tell employees

  • how you’ll communicate with them (the channels you’ll use)

  • how often (daily, weekly, or other)

  • how long this communication will be (do they need to set aside some time to deal with this or should they expect a short email that can be read around other commitments and work?)

  • and what response you expect from them.

It is vital that you maintain support, or any trust that has formed during this time will quickly disappear. Show your staff that you want to continue to grow as a team and that you’re investing in them. Consider organising an event or a sign of appreciation for their efforts during this time.

There is no roadmap helping us get through the next steps as a business, or even as people. But we can make an effort to ensure we treat people as well as we can and that we don’t make mistakes when looking after our staff.


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