Getting Back to Work Post-Lockdown

As restrictions are starting to lift, getting back to office is on everybody’s mind. Although the world has shown its unpredictable side to many we have generally coped well. We have learned that we can work flexibly, digital technology has opened up endless possibilities in terms of inclusivity. Before the pandemic we were talking about people taking their whole selves into work, now we had a peak into peoples’ personal lives. We had a crash course in emotional literacy and intelligence. And staff physical and mental health as well as well-being has catapulted on the agenda.

Looking ahead let’s think about different factors that will influence peoples well being. As during the past months some people where working, homeschooling or having caring responsibilities. Others were impacted by grief, or strongly influenced by the killing of George Floyd and the BLM movement. The business has also changed. Now there are different ways of working and priorities. And the businesses are likely to continue transforming.

Getting people back to office let’s acknowledge just how much things have changed. Money worries and job security are on peoples’ minds. During these times we are called to use all our empathy and emotional intelligence to support people and the business as we move forward through this next phase.

As we move forward into the future, acknowledge everything that has happened. Personally, in peoples’ personal lives, and that different people will have different responses so it will be important to pay attention.

We should celebrate everybodys' contributions to the business and engage in re-integration. I am greatful for peoples’ willingness to have continued working during this difficult period and the ones having been fallowed. Latter deserves acknowledgement since to be fallowed has enabled businesses to access the corona virus job-retention scheme which has supported businesses through this transitional period.

For leadership and management authenticity and honesty is important as ever. We will need to be honest about the road ahead, the opportunity and challenges and we need to find ways to communicate uncertainty. For many organisations there is still a great deal of uncertainty about what is going to happen next and we will need to find ways to address this uncertainty in communication. As we know a large part of psychological safety is about certainty and if we cannot give it we need to find ways to navigate through this process.

Vision is very important. We have our strategic vision and we have to be absolutely clear about that. But at this time it is important that this vision is really grounded.

Can you answer the questions: What is going to happen now? What is going on in the next 2, 5, 7 weeks? What is going to stay the same or different? What are going to be additional controls and different expectations?

Be as honest and straight forward as you can be with people so they can take responsibility for managing their emotions and responses to these issues. People need to make plans as much as they possibly can. Keeping flexibility and choice are important during this time. Therefore, trust in peoples’ strengths and address psychological safety with its’ elements such as security, the need for predictability, autonomy, ability to control choices, fairness, trust, the need to be held in high regard, the need to belong.

When people are coming back to office it’s important to ask them how they are feeling about coming back to navigate through this process. Do it by launching surveys on practical and emotional components of coming back to work. It will help finding out what people need and want so you will be able to mirror back to them that they are heard and understood. Making people comfortable and confident in this time will be really critical for staff driving business success. And for people to continue the commitment to deliver on changing priorities.

How to get your arms around everybody

Every company will be different and have their own challenges but make sure you are taking care of peoples’ wellbeing. Managements’ core principles of partnership, empathy, flexibility and honesty will be critical. Naming stuff will give your teams the confidence to move forward.

There is a diversity of perspectives and thoughts and everybody has had different responses. Re-induct people as you’re likely to have different priorities, ways of working and how you bring them back to business. And bring those people that had such different experiences onto a shared vision again.

We will get stuff right and some things we’ll get wrong, so reviewing will be important. We have to recognise that these reviews have to be on the agenda since we don’t know if the pandemic will be over soon or continuing. What we have learned during the pandemic is that the mixed and sudden messaging is doing something to people and that it can be depopulating. Therefore, we will pay attention to a clear and concise communication.

5 Tips to navigate your plan to get back to work post lockdown

Follow your regional Office of Public Health recommendations returning to the workplace. Prepare responsibly and apply common sense.

Check-in with each other for a good first day. This will be depending on the size of the organisation but it’s about what was happening. Reorientate and reconnect with each other and understand the experience. Give people some time and enable everybody to share experiences so we can move forward.

Build bridges between fallowed and non-fallowed staff members. Recognise that both groups of people have made contributions. So, do give voice to people and speak about the elephant in the room. Engage in team building activities. Facilitate discussions and for stories to be told. There are different experiences, and we can understand and believe that they’re all valid and valued. This will enable people to re-integrate.

Flexible working is more sought after as the practice. And we managed to do without great plans under really exceptional circumstances. Although for some people this might not be desirable for others it was a real treat. Let’s call it the art of the possible. Flexibility is about trust and enabling people for a balanced life and work fitting into it. We have proven that we can do all things very differently. Therefore, an honest appraisal is answering what your business and your people need and what we have lost during this period. After all, usually a space is full of people who are passionate about doing their work. That's what most people are looking forward to when going to office in the morning.

Manage staff members’ potential fear to return to the workplace. There is a general principle and some individual approaches. But we need to understand that there are people who are more fearful, anxious or cautious than others. In general companies have a duty of care of their employees and there's an individual duty of taking care of oneself. Therefore, managers have to have one-to-one conversations with everybody in their team and have plans built so individuals can take actions about concerns. They also need to encourage people to use their own skills, to enjoy themselves and decide what needs to be done to stay safe.

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