This article about the Post-COVID workplace appeared in the Summer 2020 edition of The Rea Report, Rea & Associates quarterly print newsletter, and was co-authored by Guy Gage, III, LPC, owner of Partners Coach.
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Recognizing & Embracing The Human Side Of Workplace Life After The Coronavirus
Well, COVID-19 sure threw us all a curveball when it started rearing its ugly head earlier this year. Most people will admit they never expected to live through such a crisis in their lifetime. But now that we’re starting to come out on the other side – back into our businesses in a post-COVID work environment – what now? It can be overwhelming to even consider what steps we need to take to get our employees (customers, too) safely back into our offices, stores, schools … and so on. However, consider and plan you must!
But before you jump on a video call with your leadership team to begin planning the details of your employees’ return and reopening at 100 percent capacity, stop and consider this: the people you sent home a few months ago are not going to be the same people who come back.
Sure, they’ll probably look the same (maybe with longer hair?), but they’ll likely return with new fears, lots of questions, and ultimately, a different set of priorities. As such, you have to recognize and understand the psychological framework in which people are coming back.
Four Ways To Infuse The Human Element Into The Post-COVID Workplace While Planning The Re-Entry Process
As a leader, you have an opportunity to influence your employees’ psychological framework in a significant way. Research shows that the psychological and emotional behavioral aspects of the human makeup are driven by different factors, specifically:
Before we go into more detail on each of these areas, one thing to recognize is the fact that all of these factors are illusions. Meaning, none of us are really in control. We may have thought we were in much more control than we actually are. We thought life was so much more stable than what it actually is … our sense of certainty in what we could count on was stronger, as was the clarity around what we should do next.
But being an illusion doesn’t mean that it isn’t important – because it very much is. As leaders, we have an opportunity to give our employees the substance or the evidence that, in fact, they do have more control, more stability, more certainty, and more clarity than what they may be feeling right now. So how can you empower your employees? Let’s dive a bit deeper into each of these four areas.
CONTROL – Giving Your Employees The Power To Be Heard
It’s true, we all have felt like we’ve lost control over our lives since the pandemic began. Nothing has gone as planned in the world. But despite your lack of control over what goes on around you, as a leader, you can help create a sense of control for your employees. Part of that control is giving your employees the power to be heard. When someone feels like they have input and that their voice is being heard, that provides a level of control. There’s something to be said about being given the opportunity to speak and offer one’s opinion.
One way you might consider giving your employees more control in these uncertain times is by deploying surveys, which can be incredibly valuable. Think of surveys as quick checks. If you have a lot of employees, you likely don’t have time to go around to each employee to ask for feedback. But a survey is a quick, yet effective, way to gather feedback about their thoughts on your business’s reentry process (or anything, really). And in the end, you’ll hopefully find yourself armed with a lot of great ideas and suggestions for how to better care for your employees.
Listen to episode 270, “Building Company Morale In A Virtual World,” of unsuitable on Rea Radio, Rea & Associates’ award-winning weekly podcast.
STABILITY – Communicating Regularly And Consistently With Your Employees
Stability is the ability for someone to be confident in something. In the case of returning to the office, one way you can help create a level of workplace stability for your employees is to communicate with them on a regular, consistent basis. Holding either in-person or virtual regular check-ins, meeting as a whole company, or just your team, whatever your work group is. As a leader it gives you the opportunity to address everyone directly at one time, where you can provide the latest company update, discuss the progress of the re-entry process, as well as solicit feedback from employees – all while creating a level of stability for your employees.
CERTAINTY – Creating A Level Of Normalcy For Your Employees
Certainty is being able to create a sense of stability or normalcy, if you will, in an abnormal setting. Your employees may be asking, “What can I count on, going forward? What should my schedule this week look like?” If you’re able to answer these questions (and more) and also encourage your teams to develop short-term goals together, you’ll be well on your way to creating a sense of certainty for your employees. Anything you can do to continuously bring familiarity and certainty is going to work to your advantage.
CLARITY – Providing Your Employees With Clear Leader-Driven Priorities
The last factor to consider, clarity, is really about helping your employees understand what they should be focusing on now. The goals and priorities you may have been focused on as a business several months ago will probably look different post-COVID, and as such, it’s important to provide clarity about what is expected moving forward. Don’t leave your employees wondering what they should be doing (and certainly don’t leave it up to the rumor mill). Be clear and direct. Manage your message and create control, stability, and certainty for your employees by being clear. This whole area of clarity should really emphasize bringing people to a sense of, “I’ve got my arms around this. I feel much safer, secure in this place.”
For example, your policies and procedures may have been very rigid in the past, but now you’ve got employees who have kids home for the summer and are trying to coordinate childcare while working full-time. It’s now a situation where you may be forced to be more flexible. Let’s say your core working hours were 8 am to 5 pm. Will this schedule continue to work for the next eight to 12 to 18 months? Or can you flex those core working hours and enable your employees to balance their job with their childcare needs? Whatever you decide is best for your business, be sure to be clear on what your expectations are, and be flexible. Absolutely, be flexible.
Want to dive deeper into how to lead the workplace re-entry process for your business? Be sure to check out our webinar on the subject at www.reacpa.com/insight/what-is-life-after-coronavirus leading-the-re-entry-process.
By Annie Yoder, CPA, CFE, CFF (New Philadelphia CPA Firm)