Guest post by Sarah Roxborough and Heleana Bouyamourn, Forward Thinking HR
As we come out of another lockdown, what the future and future of work looks like comes into view. Can we flip a switch so things go back to the way they were, or do we need to do something different?
We have all had our individual experiences of lockdown; some of us have been homeschooling, some of us have experienced personal loss. Some of us may have experienced mental health challenges, others have revised future plans due to redundancy. You may have been part of a growing business, or you may be reviewing your priorities opting for a slower pace of life. Whatever our experiences, we have all been changed, so it is unlikely that any of us can or maybe want to revert back to life before the pandemic.
The future of work for employers
What does this mean for work and employers? The workforce you shape the future with is unlikely to be the same as the team you had to furlough or transition to homeworking. Just like you, your team will have had their individual experiences and have adapted to the changes in life over the last year.
A welcome sense of relief as superficially things start to have a more ‘normal’ rhythm is quite likely, but businesses that thrive will be those who can adapt where there is a more pronounced feeling of ‘partnership’ between employer and employee.
So much of what has occurred to everyone during the pandemic has been done ‘to’ rather than ‘with’ us. Being one of the key changes we have all experienced, this can lead to a feeling that we cannot have the influence we want, even over our own lives, which damages our motivation and resilience, and adds to our mental burnout. Even more so now, Employee Wellbeing is a key area for employers to focus on and doesn’t need to come with a big price tag.
If you are an employer needing to move from surviving to thriving, or your services have been in higher demand over the last year, whichever markets and economies you operate in, an adaptable resilient workforce will be key.
There are a few steps to help you set the tone and build a constructive culture for your organisation. Even if you need to make some tough decisions that cannot take everyone forward, the way you do it will have a significant impact on all your employees, if they are personally impacted or not.
Working through this level of change successfully is not something mystical only known by a chosen few. Whether big or small, considering our 4 ‘C’s below and how they could come into play in your business, will have a positive impact on your teams’ wellbeing and motivation and help you ensure your business takes the right path at a time when budgets are in sharp focus.
The future of work: communication
We have all found ways to keep in touch over the year, through video platforms, maybe through reduced numbers back in the workplace, or even hosting social events online to keep the sense of team spirit alive. You are now needing to bring a team back in from their individual bubbles to a cohesive group, some even may have been furloughed and out of the day-to-day work loop altogether.
“So much of what has occurred to everyone during the pandemic has been done ‘to’ rather than ‘with’ us.”
We all react to change in different ways and at different times, so you may find some are anxious about the change, some may want to still work partially or completely from home, others may want to leave to pursue another career after evaluating their own future and others will be eager to just come back.
Whatever is possible or practical for your business, it will be key to have an initial discussion to understand your employees’ perspective on where they see their working life being on their return to the new normal. Whether you have a team catch-up, individual 1:1 meetings or a mix of them both, it is paramount there is a workable solution to be found to make their return a positive hopeful event rather than one for anxiety and concern.
Do you have an Employee Assistance helpline or company mental health first aider? It is always worth reminding your team they have access to this if they also need a more confidential conversation.
Clarity for the workforce
Provide your employees with whatever clarity you can. If you cannot share all the detail, and it will be nearly impossible to cover all eventualities, be honest with what you can. The key is for employees to feel you are sharing what you are able to, whilst being fair and consistent.
We may also forget that you as a business owner or manager have lived this too, being open where you can with your team will help build up the trust of working together again. Possible key points to talk through may include the future of working from home, the office being Covid-19-secure ready for them to return, any changes across the business, (which will help those returning from furlough), any future plans for the business etc.
Your employees are your front line, and they will certainly have valuable input into how things can evolve and improve. Everyone wants to be part of a success – so shape your future business path with them. Get their input, listen to their suggestions, do they think there are different skills they or the business overall needs to build to flourish? You will retain the final decision-making responsibility but one of the greatest values from diverse workplaces is the robust enduring business decisions that come out of taking multiple views into account. This may sound like an idealistic view, but done well, this level of employee buy-in to any future change is invaluable.
Many of us have had to work in a remote team-of-one on and off for so long, it feels as if we have to all rebuild elements of our personal connection within our teams, almost inducting each other again as if it were day-one with the company.
Feeling part of a community significantly helps our resilience and ability to respond positively to change. So, build your company as a community. As cliché as it sounds, we understand that human beings need connection to feel that sense of belonging and as we all come out of our own variant of lockdown, being around people again will take time to reacclimatise. Cost does not have to be the major factor here as there are so many ways people can connect that does not dent fragile company funds.
Five ways to reconnect with your team
- Finish the week with a Friday afternoon Happy Hour, which can be as simple as a video coffee breaks/team catch ups not based around work tasks but non work chatting to build your sense of community
- Encourage your teams to meet without you or their manager present. For most of us, our working world has become smaller, whether it is the spare room or kitchen table, that spontaneous catch-up with colleagues at the coffee machine has in most instances disappeared.
- Team fitness activities – think team Couch-to-5k, encouraging each other to keep going, or each keep track of how many miles you are walking each day as a team to virtually walk across the UK
- Team fund raising keeping in mind those local charities that have been negatively impacted during the last year.
- For those who have Zoom burnout, have a meeting on a walk out in a local park, when Government restrictions allow
Focussing on these four areas will set a firm foundation for your business to move form surviving to thriving with a motivated committed team of employees. Even if your business has thrived, your team will still be going through various levels of change and it is still key to keep in mind their wellbeing for your future plans.
In our April 2021 issue of The Homeworker we will be expanding on this topic, exploring how we can all move forwards into this evolving way of working, with insights from HR, psychologists, and wellbeing experts. Subscribe to make sure you don’t miss it.
At Forward Thinking HR we work with businesses that may not have an in-house HR support or alternatively have an in-house team whose key focus is operational HR /payroll. We can help you develop a clear focus on your future people plan, chart a path to achieve it, and work with you to make it become a reality.
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