The prevailing view before the pandemic was that offices were necessary for ensuring productivity, culture, and team camaraderie. However, with two out of every three Australians working from home and workforce productivity increasing by 6.5 percent over the year, it demonstrates how employees have navigated the situation to establish a ‘new normal’ in their work ethic. But, with light at the end of the tunnel and workplaces ready to reopen, here are four things you can do as a leader to ensure that your strategy to transition to offline work does not overwhelm your employees:
- Create a clear, transparent return-to-work strategy
- Establish open channels of communication
- Develop a Value Proposition
- Improve your mental health resources
Let’s explore these now…
1. Create a clear, transparent return-to-work strategy
A return-to-work strategy is a plan that will assist businesses in developing clear guidelines to make the transition process as easy and efficient for their employees as possible. The strategy should emphasise on ensuring that teams have optimal operational capabilities, with a tighter focus on the smooth deployment, enablement, and engagement of employees for long-term productivity.
In other words, this is a short-term strategy that should be developed to reintroduce your team to the work process after a lengthy period of offline operations. It could also be beneficial if the plan is compatible with the business continuity plan and contains contingencies and procedures for dealing with unexpected events ranging from infectious clusters in the workplace to loss in workplace morale and social fatigue.
2. Establish open channels for communication
Shifting back and forth between working from home and working in a collaborative workspace can be a confusing process for employees. Anxiety and misinformation may proliferate in an uncertain environment, especially if only a few employees appear to be ‘in the loop’ with everything happening.
Individuals are typically a lot happier to accept what’s occurring if they understand what you’ve decided to do, why you’re doing it, and how it impacts them. Open communication will play an essential role in fostering trust between managers and their teams and increasing collaborative efficiency among coworkers. As leaders, it is imperative that you observe the flow of communication and reach out to your peers and subordinates to gather feedback about the transition back to work.
3. Design a Value Proposition
According to a study by Gallup, employees are more likely to be motivated to get back to on-site work if they have access to a workplace value proposition. The value proposition is a “why we come to work” brochure that promotes the company’s culture, perks, and favourable interactions that employees can experience as a result of how on-site work is organised. As a manager, there are three key points you should incorporate into the workplace value proposition for your team:
- The framework developed for collaboration and how it contributes to increasing productivity, lowering individual workload, and fostering trust among co-workers.
- Offering ample opportunities for structured and unstructured time to communicate, engage and discuss topics related to and outside the scope of work.
- It is also an excellent opportunity for management to reintroduce corporate culture and policy improvements that are intended to make working on-site a pleasant and attractive proposition.
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4. Improve your mental health resources
With mental health steadily deteriorating during the pandemic, managers must recognise that the new circumstances their employees confront as a result of the pandemic should be addressed with the same severity as business-related concerns.
Because of the abrupt changes between remote and on-site work, all of the elements that generally cause workplace burnout intensified. Many individuals even struggled to keep working while simultaneously caring for their family, children or even pets at home. Based on these stats alone, we can deduce only one thing: the workforce is severely exhausted and mentally fatigued.
As managers, you must make sure you have resources available to assist employees who need to decompress. You can kick things off by delivering a training session on managing and discussing mental health in the workplace. You should also make sure that your firm provides mental health benefits and services that are clearly and frequently communicated to your employees.
Are you ready to welcome your team back?
While we are eager to see our workplaces open again and return to some sense of normalcy, this transition must be handled strategically, taking all aspects of employees’ welfare into account.