Some workplaces have emerged victorious from 2020 having achieved greater talent retention, employee offerings, and a flexible approach to effectiveness.
However, those who have fallen behind and failed to change may be exposed to even more challenges as some regions shift to a hybrid home/office environment.
In regions such as Australia and New Zealand, where COVID-19 case numbers are relatively low, many workplaces are returning to an office environment. However, this path has not been smooth as outbreaks and changing restrictions have seen employees flipped back and forth between the home and corporate office. We expect this hybrid, uncertain model to be mirrored in the UK and US as COVID inevitably continues to control the way businesses operate.
This model unfortunately presents a new layer of fatigue, performance, and management challenges. Here’s how to ensure your team is prepared for the road ahead:
1. Build closer connections
Regardless of where your employees work in the future, they will need to feel connected to the bigger picture. They will need to know you and their colleagues trust and support them.
Explore how you can maximise your digital platforms to connect employees with your organisation’s values, processes, and teammates. Facilitate digital buddy and mentoring connections which can translate into COVID-safe in-person catch-ups when your organisation starts to adopt a hybrid model. This can help alleviate some of the worries, fatigue, and stressors associated with adjusting back into the physical work environment and ensure some of the pressure is taken off managers when they’re trying to adjust too.
2. Enhance your employee offering
While many employers felt their offering was restricted when COVID first struck, there are many advantages to running a digital workforce. Here at Gallagher Bassett, we were already hiring claims professionals on a variety of remote working arrangements pre-COVID as it allows us to find talent on a much broader scale. It also helps us retain talent when they are required to relocate for personal reasons. We are happy to retain top talent, clients appreciate a stable support team, and we are able to innovate the ways we keep them engaged with the company.
The modern employee wants more than a paycheck and a desk, whether it’s virtual gyms, enhanced telehealth services, or simply a schedule that finally works around the school run, dinner time, and the talent’s unique interests – there are many benefits you can offer if you think outside the box.
3. Maintain flexibility
For those heading back to the office, don’t throw away work from home policies or expectations. Whether it’s an outbreak or simply a preferred way of working, the days of nine to five in an office are over. You will maintain team performance and engagement by ensuring your team has the option, where appropriate, to choose where they work best.
When reintroducing teams to the office, make sure to consider the increased energy toll it will have. Recommencing commuting, earlier mornings, longer days, and more socialising will inevitably see productivity drop as everyone adjusts to a changed environment. Plan for the first few in-office days to be a chance for the team to reconnect, rather than perform.
Work individually with each employee to understand their concerns, goals, and wishes for their way of working. Some may not feel safe returning to the office, even if local case numbers are low, and it’s critical you support them. Others may be unsafe or unproductive at home and need the office environment to do their best. A good manager’s role is to lead with empathy and a unique approach to each employee’s needs.
4. Prioritise being human
We were invited into living rooms, studies, kitchens, home-schools, and many other “non-professional” environments last year, and the blurring of these lines has presented both opportunities and threats. Maintaining the right balance between work-life and home-life is an act many teams have yet to master. We know employees feel more challenged and stressed when trying to manage heavy workloads while navigating home-life pressures. We also know being at home gives employees more opportunities to prioritise exercise, social connection, and ‘self-care’ time. Make sure you’re aware of what is going on in the personal lives of your employees, where appropriate, so you can offer the right supports to ensure they remain engaged with their role.
Ultimately, whatever model your organisation adopts in the future, you need to set your processes up for success by planning ahead, considering individual and collective needs, and leading from the top with empathy.
To learn more about leveraging employee strengths in a crisis, review our white paper on this issue.