Have you noticed the subtle change in the conversations around business? The focus has shifted from survival, to future planning for survival in whatever the post Coronavirus workplace will look like. Focusing on the immediate crisis is obviously critical but looking ahead and planning for what your future will look like, that’s crucial too! In many cases your business and workforce will depend on it.
There is a lot of information and guidance starting to emerge, which can be totally confusing with it updating weekly/daily/hourly! So, how do we make some sense of it all and move forward?
Here’s 3 steps to consider in your business when starting to think about a post-lockdown workplace.
Step 1 – Employees Come First!
So many organisations have got this wrong and are now regretting it! Organisations are made up of systems, processes and people. Too often, the focus is on the systems and the processes (which, don’t get me wrong, are very important too), and the same focus doesn’t go into the people. The organisations that are dealing best with the current crisis are those that are focused on their people – after all, without people, systems and processes aren’t much use!
To elaborate, this crisis is another demonstration that people should be top of that triangle. It’s the people now that are keeping organisations going. The people that are coming into work and potentially putting themselves at risk, the people that are working overtime and long hours to help other’s and the organisations they work for (hello NHS) and the people who are trying to be innovative, create new ways of working and help their organisations at the same time as home schooling children, managing pets, financial difficulties and whatever else life is currently throwing at them!
If you are an employer, consider things such as how your workforce needs to be supported now and over the coming weeks and months, as we emerge from lockdown. What you can do to make your staff feel valued and supported? Are there support measures in place to help people?
Safety should be paramount! How will the workplace look and feel for them? What will be their experience upon arriving back at the workplace? What new rules will be in place? How will these rules be communicated effectively so everyone knows what is expected? Obviously much of this will depend on the official guidance at the time, but it is key to plan this out at the earliest opportunities.
Consider how your staff will be feeling at returning to work, this will help steer your plans and have a huge impact on the success of any return plans. For example – Some employees will be relishing the idea of being back in the workplace and will be looking forward to getting back into a routine, with all the social contact and interaction that comes with being back at work. Other however, will be anxious at being in a noisy environment, shared with other people after being shielded safely at home with families. Maybe they have family members who may be vulnerable. Some organisations will sadly have had employees that have passed away due to COVID-19. How will you manage the myriad of different scenarios?
So, remember – thorough planning is key! The way these plans are executed will have a huge impact on employee engagement. Executed well and you will strengthen the respect and loyalty employees have for the Company. Executed poorly and employees will lose respect, become disengaged, perhaps even resentful and won’t be effective and productive in their roles. People want to feel cared about so a well-laid plan will also signal that you care about them and let them know they have a future in the business – hugely important factors with the current uncertainty in our world.
Step 2 – Communication.
So, you can see from the above how crucial good communication is. Ongoing engagement with your employees is really important right now, it has a two-way benefit for your business. Firstly, you will show that you care, which is paramount in business – happy employees are engaged, loyal and productive. Secondly, this will be crucial to your planning for the future.
Understanding which of your teams are impacted by illness or struggling with wellbeing and having an idea of how long the impact will be, will allow you to plan effectively and avoid teams being understaffed or running on empty.
Being open with your employees will show that they are valued and trusted, keeping them in the loop will pay off, even the smallest communications are appreciated.
Step 3 – What Does Your Future Look Like?
You have a responsibility as an employer to consider how post lockdown will impact your employees. Things to consider here should be:
- Preparing for all scenarios – Uncertainty at the minute means that there will likely be several scenarios for your business’s future. Plan for them all or at least the most likely ones.
Communicate out to your workforce as soon as you can. Employees will be looking to leaders for reassurance as to what the future will look like. Even a note to say you are working on these plans can have a huge impact to their current wellbeing.
- Safety – It is advisable to communicate what safety measures you are taking and what support will be in place for employees on their return to the workplace. An FAQ sheet is great for this! Things to include might be; how workstations will be set up, provisions in place in shared areas such food prep, lifts, toilets etc to try and maintain distancing.
- The mindset and anxiety levels of employees will vary, so the more information you can provide the better. Your employees will remember how you made them feel during the key changes of this pandemic, remember that! Be human, kind, respectful (even if there’s difficult decisions to be made) and your employees will reward you with loyalty and productivity!
There’s so much more we could talk about but if you start with these simple steps, you’ll be well on your way to putting a great plan together!
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