As the lockdown eases and businesses start to reopen and bring their employees back to the workplace there is a lot to get done. One way to cut through the work is to ask three questions:
- Are your people feeling fearful about a return to work?
- Have you implemented the lessons learnt and developed a clear transition plan?
- Are your people motivated and ready for change?
Let’s look at each question and how the information and ideas can help your business reopen smoothly:
1) Are your people feeling fearful about a return to work?
As we transition out of the pandemic, people have the dilemma of balancing safety with security of employment.
Engage with your team and help allay people’s anxiety by talking to them and listening carefully. In advance of returning to work consider arranging a Back to Work conference call, with clear and concise messages about what happens next and when. Zoom or other platforms allow for anonymous Q&A chat during the call, helping you address immediate concerns.
People will need time to reflect on what you’ve said. So, set up one-to-one follow up calls, ideally two days later.
In client conversations we’ve noticed that people have been working longer hours through fear, uncertainty or boredom. Restore work-life balance on their return to work.
A ‘lessons learnt’ workshop is a great way to help restore this balance. Help people feel they can share their experiences and opinions, listen to what worked well during lockdown, and identify changes that were efficient and allowed simplicity to flourish.
Can your team leaders use their emotional intelligence to manage a potentially emotional time for staff? Maybe you can support team leaders with access to eLearning to enhance their skills in this area.
2) Have you implemented the lessons learnt and developed a clear transition plan?
Your people will be very proficient at their ‘normal’ role. However, the return to work and necessary changes may mean a drop in productivity, the need for additional training, and the ability to deal with frustrations that changes inevitably bring.
Managing the back to work transition requires a plan which includes the lessons learnt and then covers the 5 W’s:
- Why are the changes needed? As teams come back together, they’ll discover that everyone’s experience of Covid-19 was different. This may affect their behaviours and how they adjust to the new norm. Help teams reconnect by creating an environment where people are respectful of other’s positions. Set the ground rules clearly and explain why these are needed. This will help the team reconnect.
- Who is doing the work? Ever heard of the analogy of “you’re playing in my sand pit”? People can get precious about their job role or the part they play in a team, and when someone else gets involved it can create child-like emotions of not wanting to share. During Covid-19, with people furloughed and teams stretched, it is inevitable that people will have been asked to pitch in and do things that were not usually part of their normal day to day role. Effective delegation is needed to reallocate or reassign the workload, whilst being mindful of individual’s emotional responses. Setting clear roles and responsibilities, briefed well, will help your team settle into the new norm.
- Where will work be carried out? I’ve been asked to visit construction sites to carry out Covid-19 assessments. When this can’t be done remotely, I visualise where I am going, how am I going to get there and who will be there. This helps me plan what’s needed and ensure that everyone can adhere to the current social distancing rules. As an employer, you can give clear information about where people will be working and how they can get there. This will help to alleviate anxiety.
- When will this happen? Whilst the situation remains fluid it is important to give your teams ample notice of when these return to work measures will be in place. This will allow them to make arrangements in their home life and mentally adjust to the change.
- What is the new work or role? Prior to Covid-19 everyone knew their job role and the tasks that they needed to complete. If you have conducted a ‘lessons learnt’ review, you may find that you have updated some of your processes. These changes will affect the people returning to work, and the people who took on additional tasks during the lockdown. Make sure that your Back to Work plan clearly communicates these changes and embraces them.
As an employer or manager, it makes sense to treat the return to work as a project in its own right. You need a well-defined and concise plan, that is clearly communicated to your team, and managed with an understanding that in these unusual times we don’t have all the answers. When your team know that you have a plan in place and you are working with them, taking their challenges into account, you can ensure a smooth transition and a united team.
3) Are your people motivated and ready for change?
Ensuring your staff embody the behaviours you want to see and focus their efforts on achieving the team’s goals, is a key part of team development.
When your team has taken part in the lessons learnt exercise, demonstrate through your actions, not just your words. that their concerns and ideas have been heard. They’ll embrace the necessary changes much quicker.
With teams fragmented, team spirit will have been tested during lockdown. As everyone comes together, consider a team building exercise. This can be as simple as a fun ice breaker or a quiz.
In an unusual situation such as the easing of lockdown there is a lot to do and to think about. Reopening your business will require preparation and plentiful communication. Involving your team, communicating with them in advance and as you all come back to work, plus investing in training where needed will all contribute to keeping motivation high.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Joanna Strahan is founder of C2C Training Group, which offers high quality assessment/competency-based courses in Health and Safety, leadership, business skills and personal development. Joanna brings 18 years industry experience to her training courses to ensure that learners are engaged and change is generated. C2C Training’s aim is to break industry norms and influence positive change to the way training is delivered.