Relating, reflecting, recalibrating and reconditioning will help your business reshape effectively after the stresses and changes of 2020. By Peter Maguire
As 2021 gets into gear, it is apparent that the effects of the pandemic will be with us for a while yet. There will continue to be localised flare-ups and restrictions from time to time, but we have largely emerged from lockdown and business activity has bounced back in most sectors.
That means that it is time to have a think about what the Covid-19 situation has meant for our own business and people and what that means for our people strategies going forward.
In doing that, it is important not to take a ‘one size fits all approach’ because there are so many differences in the needs of our people, their respective experiences during the pandemic and their preferred way of working.
Some had to work from home, some had to go to work and some had no work at all. Some had to home school, some suffered from social disconnection and loneliness and many had challenges with maintaining physical fitness and/or mental health.
For some, having tasted it, working from home will have its attractions and for others, the opposite will be true and the social environment of the office will be the clear preference. Many will want a bit of both, and this hybrid model of working is one that will become very common in the years ahead.
Some will decide that they want to do something different altogether from what they have done professionally for many years while some will be happy just to be back doing what they know and are comfortable with.
So how do you work all of that out and come up with a reasonable approach for your business and your people? We suggest the following four steps.
Talk to your people and ask them where they are at.
What has their personal experience of the last year with work and life been? What do they each (individually) want their personal future work situation to look like – the job that they will do and when, where and how they will do it?
By all means, talk about what might be possible in the context of business needs but don’t make promises that you can’t keep and don’t discard ideas without really giving them proper consideration. This is just really about having a genuine and respectful and open conversation.
Take some time to have a think about what each of your people has said about their experiences and their preferences for now and the future.
There could be genuine opportunities that could present in honestly thinking about different ways of doing things and providing flexible or remote working opportunities.
Are there things that have worked OK or perhaps even better during lockdown?
Perhaps some of your employees have demonstrated some particular qualities, talents or vulnerabilities that you should take into account.
How can you structure things in ways that are going to work better for the business and your people?
The recalibration is about resetting the work experience for people based on what has been learned from the pandemic situation in the context of the needs of your business and your people.
The first part of that recalibration is getting your Covid-safe workplace plan in place and ensuring that everyone understands it, is equipped to play their part and does so.
The second is about how you take advantage of any positives that have come out of the pandemic. For example, many businesses made new uses of technology from which they have reaped benefits during lockdown. What opportunities does this present for the future?
Many businesses are reporting higher levels of employee satisfaction with the support they received from their managers – probably because the need for timely communication became a priority and more communication activity occurred as a result. Put simply, more conversations occurred.
How can you maintain a culture of continuous conversations and coaching that will engender greater employee wellbeing, engagement and higher performance?
As with any process of change, people take time to adapt.
Many people who have been without work or working from home for months on end will take time to adjust back to the routine of coming to work. People need reconditioning – physically, socially, with their use of time and with personal and family commitments. As noted above, some will want to make adjustments to their working arrangements to get better balance in their lives.
There are also those who are still concerned about the Covid threat and who therefore may be reluctant to return to the normal workplace. Education on how you will keep people safe at work (ie your Covid-safe workplace plan) will help this situation. Finally, we know that there is always the possibility of Covid infections and contact tracing impacting on your locality, members of your staff or, in more serious cases, your business operations. This is all a part of the new normal in life for us now for the foreseeable future.
So just remember that is the case and maintain that line with your people – it is just another one of those temporary inconveniences that everyone has to bear in the new normal.
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.