How Engaging With Employees And Addressing Their Concerns Can Help Leaders Accelerate The Return To Work Process
With more people getting vaccinated and fewer numbers of COVID-19 cases being reported globally, many countries are allowing non-essential businesses to reopen. United States is ready to follow suit. Organizations from various sectors are planning a return to the physical office. However, there are some serious questions about the future of work processes and what the workplace will look like after employees come back after an extended work-from-home stint.
The pandemic has had a far-reaching impact on the personal and professional lives of most people. There has been a major transformation in the work style approaches of companies, and employees had to adapt to these new norms. Many employees ensured business continuity during the lockdown. Many employees will find it difficult to suddenly change their approach to work when they return to working from the office.
What Good Leaders Should Do To Motivate Returning Employees
Leaders have a crucial role to play as workplaces plan to open and organizations aim to gradually return to their normal pre-COVID ways of business. They must recognize that some of their employees may have experienced grief and loss during these challenging times. They might carry those emotions and anxiety to work. That’s why the process of reopening a physical office and welcoming team members back must involve a lot of forethought, planning, and precaution.
Clear and inspiring communication from leaders is pivotal to the success of the ‘getting back to the office’ process. Apart from having a clear roadmap to deal with the changes, leaders must also aim to calmly assist the rattled team members to accept the changed circumstances.
Any return to work plans must involve a great degree of flexibility and creativity. Leaders will also have to deal with logistical and practical issues. They may have to navigate a whole new normal to build trust and provide employees with a sense of purpose.
Finding Solutions for a Smooth WFH to Physical Office Transition
State of Mind of Employees and Associated Insecurities
Leaders must take into consideration the fact that some returning employees could have a drastically altered mental and emotional state. They may not be prepared to resume work from the office as they have to take care of their loved ones that are dependent on them. They will also have concerns about their own health and safety.
It is a good idea to create an employee profile afresh, so you know the severely traumatized ones and those relatively less affected by the pandemic. This will help you create two groups of employees – one eager and ready to return to office and the other still not mentally prepared to resume work from office. Obviously, you need to address the concerns of the latter group. Here’s how you can deal with the problem:
- Without sounding forceful, stress upon the need to return and keep their minds occupied.
- Impress upon them the advantages of being with their colleagues. They can be the best healers in such situations.
- Assure them of your support and make them feel secure. Let the message go out that it is okay for them to take some more time to overcome their challenges.
- Assuage their feelings about being replaced or demoted by giving them more job responsibilities that can be handled remotely.
Emotional Issues Transcending Into Workspace
The pandemic was an unusual situation that many of us didn’t know how to deal with. This problem is particularly true for those who lost their loved ones to COVID-19 or related complications. It is not easy to understand their trauma. Leaders must not rush them into the physical workspace but take time out to know what’s ailing them. Of course, one might say it’s not a good thing to bring personal issues to work. But as pointed out earlier, these are unusual times, and they throw you into unusual situations that can be tough to comprehend.
Empathy is an integral element of good leadership. Leaders who do not care about the problems of their employees and team members, especially the issues they had to encounter during the pandemic, may not earn their confidence.
- Have an open discussion about any emotional issues of an employee or team member. Such discussions can help strengthen ties. Employees will view leaders with respect and appreciate their eagerness to help.
- Create support groups led by the CEOs/Departmental Heads/Team Leads to send a message to employees that you care.
- Make emotional conversations normal so that those who have problems share them openly and find support and care to address such issues quickly.
- Recognize the efforts of those employees who played a crucial role in society during the pandemic despite of the risks involved. It will show how you empathize with others and appreciate what they do.
The Urgency to Get Things Back to Normal
The goal of any business is to make money or get back top optimum productivity. All decisions employers/departmental heads take come cloaked in the garb of financial/productivity considerations. Understandably, you need to get the wheels of your business or department rolling quickly because like many others you too might have suffered losses and are keen to put that behind and move ahead.
However, as a leader who cares for their employees and team members, you will make sure that they are part of the plan to get your business going again. You might want to share your views about getting back to physical work before taking a final decision.
A good leader will also listen to what team members have to say and then make a decision that accommodates their concerns as well.
- Create groups and start discussions online about the challenges of getting back to the office under the changed circumstances.
- Assure employees that their safety is of paramount importance and the organization will take all possible steps to create a safe and secure workplace environment.
- Look for ways of addressing the concerns of those employees who have a dependent to take care of or need medical care. This will create a sense of relief and confidence in the organization and motivate the staff to take appropriate steps for resuming work from office.
The solutions suggested above show that there is a need to understand the problems of employees in the changing world. The pandemic has altered lives dramatically. Employers should motivate employees and ensure they remain optimistic about the future. As an employer or leader, you must make it convenient and comfortable for your employees and team members to reach you and share their concerns with you. Your empathy and concern will go a long way in inspiring your employees and motivating them to return to a normal work situation.