Managing Employees 'Back to Work' – what processes and habits to keep

By Mark LeBusque. Published at May 27, 2020, in Features

Our elected officials have created a plan over three stages to kickstart the economy, and a critical piece here is transitioning employees (humans) from work-from-home back into the offices whether it be full time, split between the office and home, or even working from home full time.

It’s a little bit like a liquorice all-sort approach to what I refer to as business unusual. Work will now be made up of many different flavours and colours, and it’s time for managers and businesses to work out how best to put their version of a liquorice all-sort together. What colours and flavours should they keep to ensure that the business can thrive into the future and beyond?

It will come in many forms (including but not limited to):

  • 100% Office time
  • Work is spilt between 50% office time and 50% working from home (or any other % imaginable).
  • 100% of work can be done from home
  • Local suburban open rentable office spaces may come into play
  • Certain roles will determine how much time is spent between the home and work

There is no longer a 'business as usual' and referencing of a 'new normal' needs to stop immediately. There will be no 'new normal' as we know that COVID-19 has its own set of rules that will determine what decisions can and can’t be made.

What we do know is that the notion of what 'work' is has changed forever and as a result of that it is important for managers to acknowledge this and look back over the past three months on what new habits to keep from this time of business unusual. These can come in the form of both process or technical change and behavioural or human change.

Discussions with business owners and managers have highlighted some human behaviours that have changed for the better. I have shared these with you as a reminder that there is a great opportunity to select any of a combination of these to create your own colour and flavour of your business. Process is important but it’s the new behaviours that will be the difference between a smooth transition or a very bumpy road back.

Here are 5 Behaviours to keep as you move into the next phase:

Trusting Each Other – with a loss of face-to-face interaction, has also come a huge positive of the social contract of trust. Let’s keep doing it. How about adopting the concept that trust is given not earned? Just by keeping a slight shift in mindset you will create a manager-employee relationship that creates an environment where experimentation, exploration and challenging old ways of doing things is embraced and not feared".

Flexibility – we now know that work can be done from just about anywhere and it is time to drop the need to “be seen is to be productive” – that’s so 1980s. Encourage your employees to share their experiences good and bad to be able to determine what can be done at home and what can’t be. If they feel like they have had some skin in the game then they will be motivated to spend that discretionary effort no matter their physical location.

Helpfulness – keep exploring ways to be helpful to others as well as asking for help when you don’t have the answers. Saying “I don’t know” or “can you help me/can I help you” will create permission for everyone in your business to offer and seek help right across the board. This is where great work can happen as humans remove the hierarchy and go back to what it is to be human.

Personal Connection – we are hardwired to build deeper connection and the benefits of it has been no more apparent than in these initial times of COVID-19. Listening and learning about each other at a personal level has built strength in relationships in a short time that usually take years to establish. Keep on starting meetings with some social chit-chat before you get on with the business.

Fun – we have certainly worked out that fun and doing business are not mutually exclusive, in fact having fun can actually make doing business better. I offer these two questions to throw out at your next virtual/physical (or a combination of both). What did you enjoy at work this week? What did you achieve outside of work this week? Most of the answers will lead back to humans having fun working together or doing something with their loved ones. Make time for fun.

There is a great level of hope and excitement as announcements on lifting restrictions are communicated to managers and employees. It is important to remember that one flavour and colour does not fit all.

You get to choose the combination of the colours and flavours of your liquorice all-sort.

What’s your choice?

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