Over the past few weeks most workplaces were forced to change the way they work. And as we transition into level 2, and hopefully soon level 1, bringing employees back to the workplace after a period away will take a compassionate level of communication and leadership.
While additional safety measures and protocols (that adhere to government guidelines regarding Covid-19) now need to be in place. It’s also important for companies to keep a track of employee’s feelings and emotions during the reuniting of a workforce. Some employees may be very eager to get back to the workplace. Others will have found real comfort in working from home. While some may not feel comfortable and safe even coming back to work.
Keep up the communication
Employees will be looking for strong leadership and communication. Tensions are still heightened at this time, and there’s still unknown about the future. Regular communication from leaders about how to transition back to work and what’s expected (now and over the next six months or more) will be extremely important.
Don’t stop the ‘togetherness’
If you’ve been regularly Zooming with your team over the past six weeks to ensure the team comradery and morale has continued – don’t stop once you’re back at work. You may not have to Zoom anymore but keep up the cooperation between colleagues and monitor togetherness. It’s no coincidence that those video catch-ups and virtual after-work drinks did so well during the lockdown period. They have been a focused way to share emotions and perspectives with colleagues throughout this time.
Returning to work after several weeks can cause differing amounts of emotions. Some people may have anxiety about returning to work safely, or about their children going back to school or day-care. Others will be tired of being at home and will welcome the opportunity to be back at work. There may be a heightened level of emotion, anxiety, depression, and behavioural issues in the workplace.
Employers and co-workers can watch for signs of emotional impact over the coming weeks and months, to ensure everyone is finding their way back to the new normal. Having support systems in place will be critical.
The disengaged employee
For a disengaged employee who is very motivated to move on, the options may be limited. Therefore, managing their disengagement could be challenging for their manager. Disengagement has a ripple effect and can cause employee morale to fall with a consequent decrease in performance and productivity. This will require a higher level of ongoing discussions and goal setting to encourage them to remain motivated and committed while still employed in this position.
Training and development
Some companies may have less of a budget to invest in employee training and development in the short term. Plus, there might be limited access to previously planned training and development courses. It’s important to communicate this to employees and ensure that the investment picks up as soon as possible – it should not be seen as an unnecessary overhead. Giving your employees an environment where they’re upskilling and growing with the support of your company behind them will always be a key factor in employee engagement.
No one likes to think it, but…
During this time, finances have been affected for many people, there might be a greater risk of fraud or dishonesty in the workplace. It may be a good time to do a check over your audit processes to ensure they are robust.
Lead with empathy
Leadership, empathy, compassion and understanding during this time will be extremely important. Everyone going back to work will have had their own individual journey over the past weeks. Workplaces may need to be flexible with the return of their workforce, and also let’s not forget that we’re not out of the woods yet. Hopefully, we don’t have to move back up the levels at any time. But it is something that needs to be prepared for in the event that it does happen.