Jingle bells might sound a little different this year, here’s how to help staff adapt.

Around the country, we are still at various stages of emergence from the Covid-19 pandemic restrictions into something more like our normal lives albeit with a big ‘new’ preceding that ‘normal’.

Mask wearing in public and physical distancing and restrictions on business operations and crowd sizes will be with us for some time to come.

As Christmas looms, we also need to consider what this year has been like for everyone. There have been innumerable stresses in 2020 for our businesses, our people and their families and friends, and the responses to them have been varied.

We all want to enjoy the festive season but we also have to remember that there are rules to be followed so that the experience of 2020 does not come again.

Here are a few thoughts on things to keep front of mind.

People are tired…

Each year, when we get to the end of the year, the incidences of people misbehaving tend to escalate with the mix of fatigue from a long year, money shortage stresses at Christmastime, having the time to get all of that shopping done and a bit of partying and alcohol consumption thrown into the mix.

This year, with the impacts the pandemic has had, the fatigue and anxiety levels are likely to be more pronounced and the party experience is likely to be more prominent too because people have been missing the social connection.

So don’t be a grinch and spoil the fun but make sure that you are clear with your people on what the expectations are and keep an eye out for anyone who is struggling. Just ask if they are OK and listen if they want to have a chat.

People haven’t been in for a while…

For many people, it has been months since they have come into work either because they could work from home or because there has been no work for them.

The reality for many will be that they need to become reconditioned to coming in – getting back to that routine, undertaking the commute and then adjusting to the realities of being back in the physical workplace with other people. There might also be some significant changes to the way that you do things because of the pandemic and its ongoing effects.

Be clear about expectations and rules, be patient while people readjust and be proactive in asking if anyone is struggling with anything and seek solutions.

People need to feel safe…

You need to ensure that you have your Covid-safe working plan in place and people understand how that works.

That means managing physical distancing, wearing of masks, hand washing and sanitation on the job as well as in the management of shared spaces and facilities such as meals areas and toilets. Then of course there is the interaction with customers where they are physically present in the workplace.

Add to that making sure that anyone who has flu-like symptoms doesn’t come in until after they have been tested and cleared.

All of that needs to be in your plan and you need to educate your people about these requirements and require them to comply with all of these rules.

Showing your people that you are serious about keeping them safe will help to deflate that ‘elephant in the room’ for everyone.

People want change…

There are two elements to this.

The first, for those who have had the opportunity to work from home, is that many have enjoyed it for a variety of reasons and may well want to keep doing it.

Consider what has worked well with each employee who is in that situation and what perhaps has not worked so well. Be open to making adjustments because flexible working is very much here to stay and it will be much higher on people’s job preferences.

Have good business reasons as to why people might need to come in and relate them to specific functions, meetings or interactions where there is a demonstrable benefit in doing that face to face.

Be prepared to listen and genuinely consider what each person has to say about their situation and, if you can’t reach agreement with their requests, be clear about why that is the case.

People want positive leadership…

Recognising the realities of what this time of this year looks like for everyone, being clear about the rules and checking in with everyone to see that they are OK are all parts of what people expect of a good boss.

Exercising patience with people’s struggles and flexibility with their personal and family needs in these challenging times can be a struggle for an employer, especially in businesses that have been hit hard commercially in the pandemic.

If you are feeling stressed or cross about something, take a step back before you reactively do something that might not be the right thing in the circumstances. Take a breath and, if you can, perhaps take time to get advice about the best way to deal with the situation.

Of course, in order for people to get the best leadership, the leader needs to be the best that they can be. So look after #1 and assure that you optimise your wellbeing to lead your people as well as you can in these challenging times.

Best wishes for the festive season and let’s all look forward to a much safer and more enjoyable and prosperous 2021.

Peter Maguire is the owner and practice leader of Ridgeline HR, an award winning HRM consulting practice which he founded in 2000. Peter is an acknowledged expert in workplace relations compliance and also a high-performance leadership coach with over 40 years experience in HRM. Ridgeline HR’s byline is Helping PEOPLE in BUSINESS and that is essentially what Peter does – help business people with their people business.