One Step at a Time (Getting Back to Work - 4/24)
GETTING BACK TO WORK
As teams prepare to come back to work, it is likely that office teams will be the first to return. It is important that managers and team leaders demonstrate real empathy and lead the effort by setting the tone. According to Government Executive Magazine, key components to re-introducing workers back into the workspace should include:
Communication - Do not stop communicating. Sharing information about what your organization is doing to plan for reopening your physical spaces will be key. Create opportunities for open dialogue as you plan your transition and leverage your takeaways to enhance your plans.
Sanitation - Take steps now to ensure physical spaces are fully sanitized through custodial services before any reentry, clearly and frequently communicating those efforts to maintain cleanliness to your team. Continue to provide ample cleaning products and hand sanitizers for employees to use in their own and in shared spaces and ensure employees are allowed to wear gloves and masks if they wish. This is not just to mitigate what might be a high risk of infections; it is also to provide psychological safety.
Strategize - Get creative about when and to what degree you really need to return people to office spaces in the first place. Many employees will have been working from home for weeks or even months. Is it possible to provide them with more flexibility in the hours they report to the office in the future? Do not squander the efficiencies and effectiveness you've just gained from working remotely.
Exercise Caution and Empathy - Encourage employees to be considerate of each other and give each other more space than they would have previously. Traditional ways of reconnecting with one another after long periods of being away, such as sharing home-cooked food or going out for happy hour, may not be appropriate as we recover from a health emergency. Even well-intentioned efforts to greet each other with hugs and handshakes can be traumatic when fear and tension may already be running high.
Scrutinize Floorplans - Take a hard look at the layout of your workspace and assess any risks. Is there room for continued social distancing of at least 6 feet between employees? If not, could you rotate in-person work days to stagger use of closely-spaced seats?
Use Technology - Temporarily reconsider the use and layout of your collaboration spaces, such as conference rooms that are often packed with furniture. Consider removing chairs from these rooms and organizing remaining chairs as a visual reminder to stay spaced apart. Even better, build your new virtual collaboration tools and competencies to continue hosting meeting virtually. Senior leaders play a critical role in modeling virtual collaboration; employees will follow their lead.
Continue to Communicate - Provide regular communication about available resources to employees. HR flexibilities, the Employee Assistance Program, mental health, and financial resources will be just as important during your organization's recovery.
Support - Acknowledge that many employees did not have the opportunity to work from home, while others did and may be facing different challenges. Make sure you equally support the reintegration of those who had to continue working in the office, along with those who were permitted to work from home.
Get Feedback - Conducts some form of an after-action review. Engage all of your staff members in a formal process of capturing how the organization responded: What worked well? What could have worked better? How effectively were you able to continue your mission and essential functions? Ask staff to reflect upon their personal and organizational takeaways after being away from the office for so long. Integrate these lessons into your organizational processes and policies and especially your continuity and pandemic plans.
Reflect - Be overt about helping your teams reflect and discuss what has changed in how they have been working together. Determine what they want to leave behind and what they want to sustain. This will help your teams bring some closure to the past and feel empowered to take control of how we move forward.