The shift is finally happening but after the success of the stay-at-home message, how will people feel returning to work? The Ipsos MORI poll published in April 2020 found that only half of employed feel comfortable going back to work and a third would be nervous to do so. When parents/ guardians think about sending their children back to school, the poll found that more feel uncomfortable than comfortable about doing so. So we are asking people to be engaging with activities that don’t feel safe for them. This immediately puts the brain at a disadvantage in terms of processing, problem-solving, rational thought, effective communication…. all the functions we need to work well.
And how engaged with your company do your employees feel in the new world? Work will now look and feel different, not only because of social distancing rules but because budgets are squeezed, staffing is down, directions have adjusted and the way things are done have changed.
In terms of re-engaging employees returning to work, here are some key considerations:
Talk to Employees Individually about their Experience & Circumstances
The experience of working from home or being furloughed will be unique for each of your team. Arrange one-to-ones with your team to discuss their specific circumstances, what is happening next for them, how that feels and what support is needed in order for them to be able to cope well. If your employees are in a good place emotionally, they will be in a good place to be productive with work.
Consider using an Engagement Action Plan to guide a specific conversation around engagement. We know that the biggest impact on workplace wellbeing is work-engagement, and the biggest impact on engagement with work is employee wellbeing. This plan I have developed, adapted from MIND’s Wellness Action Plans, is a great resource to support this conversation. Email me here to receive a free copy.
- Some people will have experienced loss, will feel anxiety about being out-and-about, be juggling the new school patterns with children, or will be living with a reality or worries you may not be aware of. Consider doing an Emotional Needs Audit to identify what is going well for the person and where there needs to be a focus in terms of improving emotional wellbeing. Contact me for an online workshop specifically aimed at supporting parents juggling home-schooling and home-working.
- Be aware of feelings of insecurity about future opportunities, resentment about different working patterns, threats to status and so on where people have been working to fit their circumstances. When we’re stressed, we’re quicker to judge and make assumptions. Do employees have genuine empathy for each other?
- Find out your team’s insights about their role, the silver linings to hold onto, their achievements since being in lock-down and their hopes for the future. When we start from a position of success and strengths and move from there, the outcomes are more positive.
Talk to Employees as a Team about the Future
- Ask what the future looks like. Shape a joint plan with everyone’s roles (creating clarity around these, as they’re bound to have shifted) and using what has been learnt during lock-down. There will have been important observations about the company and inspiration about how things could work better.
- Identify gaps in knowledge, skills and qualities within your team for moving forwards on your new, collaborative path. Provide opportunities with fairness and transparency so that your employees stay on board and are supportive of each other.
- Reassure employees about the changes and experimental approach going forwards and the inevitable ups and downs. Agree how these should be communicated and make sure these aren’t process driven but instead focus on what is going well, what’s more challenging and what people need help with.
Employee Engagement & Performance Management
Management of people is the number one job to get right; when we get people right, we get business right. But too many people consider this an add-on to their original role. As a team leader you need to build time into your diary, daily, to check in with how your team are getting on. This is usually the first thing to go when the day gets busy. Show you prioritise wellbeing. Lead by example.
Think about how your role will need to shift based on what you now look for in your team. How do you measure success with your employees? What does performance management look like now? This is a really important question for businesses to address.