Transitioning people back to work after COVID 19: Top 10 Tips
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It is very important to be aware that going back to work will not be going back “where we left off” and that things will not be the same. The vast majority of businesses will undergo a transformation. We are experiencing a transitioning back to work after COVID-19 and it is important to be aware of this and to develop realistic expectations of ourselves and others. It is OK if it is difficult for us and if there are any feelings that were present at the beginning of the pandemic. It is important to monitor ourselves, our reactions and give ourselves time to adjust. On the other hand, some positive things will certainly remain more frequent work from home, more online communication, and the use of new tools for work. It can be a reminder and a motivator that a crisis if we adapt successfully, can bring long-term positive changes.
For managers, all those proposals that were current during the crisis are still in force, and which include – transparent communication, understanding for different reactions of employees, and motivating employees through real optimism. It is especially important for managers to understand the different, sometimes surprising reactions of their employees (as well as their own reactions) and to be aware of that transition period. Here are 10 tips on how to transition employees back to work after COVID-19:
Tip 1: No handshakes, fewer meetings
The handshakes are out until further notice. At the same time, the management of the companies will start thinking about practical measures. Tom Frieden asked himself: “Can we design a door that doesn’t have to be opened by touch? Should we regularly measure people’s temperature when entering the workspace?”.
Disinfectants will become part of the usual routine. We can also expect a reduction in the number of people in one space, as well as the fact that office computers and telephones are no longer shared. It is certain that they will insist on the use of masks.
Supermarkets are already limiting the number of people who can enter them at a time, setting up plastic barriers between buyers and sellers, and demanding respect for distance – all of which could come to life in cafes as well.
Employers could encourage work from home or arrange for workers to come to work at different times. A reduced number of meetings is also an option. Frieden says that could be one of the positive effects of the Covid-19 virus, because in his opinion there were too many business meetings.
Tip 2: More sick leave
U.S. epidemiologist Brandon Brown says he will be encouraged in the future, not discouraged, to stay home when employees are sick. America has a notorious work culture, among other things because there is no compulsory sick leave at the federal level.
The consequence is that people come to work despite illness. According to a survey from 2019, conducted on 2,800 workers, exactly one-third of them always come to work, regardless of whether they are ill or not. Teleworking will become commonplace for many, especially because it has been shown to be effective. Due to the forced stay at home, we realized that physical meetings are not always necessary. Now and after the pandemic, the virtual ones should prevail.
Tip 3: Apply hybrid schedule
No, you do not need to fire half of your workers. There is a better alternative. Give your people real flexibility, so they should be at office only when it is necessary. Companies started to shift towards partly remote work even before pandemic. Nowadays business requires new ways of workforce management in general. Therefore, new processes must be implemented to meet the current needs of the global market. Hybrid employees are generally more satisfied with working conditions and ready to show their best performance. Nevertheless, office buildings are still useful and some workers actually prefer (or need) to be onsite. And hybrid work turns out to be an optimal solution in this case. It matches both types and gives a chance to have the best from them.
However, when applying hybrid schedule at some point you will think about downsizing office space, providing places only for employees who are currently onsite. First, renting smaller room saves money. Second, you barely need empty work places for those who are not present. And even if that is not your point, you still need to manage the flow of your workflow avoiding overcrowded office. There are many tools helping with this task. And most of them are automated and only assist managers, who just communicate with employees on the schedule if necessary. It is possible because staff assigns their shifts on their own account. For example, this function is used by stayhome.ai, AI-driven platform for hybrid office management.
Its founder Alexandr Tsimerman states: “Real flexibility is giving people the possibility to work with a plan which they created by themselves. We do believe that it is a great idea. It gives value not only to employees but to the company, too. On average with the help of Stayhome our clients have reduced per-employee costs by 24% and optimized office usage by 163%”.
Maybe, lockdown caused by Covid-19 is about time to try hybrid work schedule. Your reasons might be different but outcomes tend to be positive. And it still can work at your advantage even after all the restrictions are over.
Tip 4: Communicate optimally
Employees in companies will have a number of questions about what the business will look like, how stable the company is, what the long-term perspective is, and many more. Communicate openly and ask managers, colleagues, HR. Share your thoughts with them and focus on acting in those domains in which you have influence. Be prepared that you will not always get a concrete answer because that is not always achievable in this situation, but the conversation and exchange that we have, for us, in the psychological sense, is useful and supportive. If you have difficulty coping with the situation of return, seek support – contact HR, one of the colleagues who can help you.
The Buffer survey stated that 20 % of respondents mentioned communication and cooperation as the biggest challenges of teleworking. When working from home it is easy to fall into the trap of too little or too much communication. Both can be the result of feelings of isolation. There are other reasons: too little communication is often due to incompetence of employees and managers in technological forms of communication, insufficiently good working conditions from home or simply, although rarely, using the ability of either manager or employee to be absent. Excessive communication is sometimes an expression of a well-meaning desire to keep the team together. Sometimes it is a person’s aspiration to prove himself or a managerial aspiration to supervise or even, control, employees.
Communication has a strong impact on motivation and performance, so you try to recognize these pitfalls in time and to communicate optimally for the work process, as well as for good interpersonal relationships.
Take an interest in the work of employees: communicating does not only mean setting a goal or explaining it but carefully following what the employee has to say. Perhaps working in new circumstances poses challenges that require different support. Listen more carefully than usual, because the situation faced by an employee whose working day you do not attend directly, may be such that it requires you to move away from the usual way of solving problems. Make an effort to provide support to an employee who does not know enough about modern communication technologies, to use them competently.
After an online meeting or telephone conversation, summarize the key points of the communication and forward them in the form of an e-mail to the employees to ensure an equal understanding of what has been agreed. This is a recommended practice, but in teleworking, it is necessary even with smaller agreements. Misunderstanding or frequent changes of instructions have a very negative effect on motivation. Identify the channels and dynamics of mandatory communication and let every employee in the team be familiar with it.
Pay special attention to monitoring progress and informing employees about the business flow, use knowledge from project management and scoreboards so that all employees in the team are informed in time and have the right information. Visualize the data and create if you don’t already have one, and if the company thinks it’s safe, an online place where documents relevant to the workflow are located, and that everyone on the team can access.
Tip 5: Keep up the remote work
Working from home is a possibility only for some people – if you work as a waiter, it is simply not feasible. For anyone who can and wants to work from home, the benefits are more than evident. If you don’t have to work in an office, you don’t even have to spend time on transportation, which is a huge advantage, especially in big cities.
According to a Colliers survey, 82 percent of employees expressed a desire to work from home one or more days a week even after the COVID-19 crisis. Flexible working hours and a more relaxed atmosphere are also some reasons why employees opted for this option.
We live in a time when everyday life brings with it a lot of stress, pressure, and expectations. No matter what your job is, there will be days when you will be nervous and irritable. We are annoyed by traffic jams, sometimes we are annoyed by colleagues, sometimes the salary is late. When we work from home, we can avoid some things, but that does not mean that we are completely relieved of stress.
Tip 6: Shorter daily meetings, so we don’t get lazy
In these days of high voltage, it is expected that the employer or management will organize new work processes within the express deadline, primarily so that communication within teams or among associates would be as close as possible to what they see every day. But you can also take the initiative and suggest what to do.
Shorter information meetings once or twice a day for 15 minutes can really help a good flow of information and information about the next tasks and the progress of current ones, but above all, they can contribute to not getting lazy because we don’t have someone to report to. Yes, even very self-disciplined people know how to stumble here.
Today, at least there are many great platforms for group video calls and (or) instant messaging, and the nuances are in question, and according to team needs, it remains to decide between Zoom, Skype, Cisco, Webex, GoogleHangouts, Microsoft Teams, Slack.
If it is really necessary to be constantly in communication, a longer audio call proved to be an effective practice. This specifically means that you have a headset and a constantly on tone (video can sometimes only interfere with both concentration and call quality) and when a colleague needs to say something to everyone, turn on the microphone and do so. This can be faster and clearer than the exchange of group messages, which in other teams often creates noise in communication.
Tip 7: Recognize the efforts of employees
Everyone wants to feel valued. The extra effort put into a job if it is not recognized, appreciated, and rewarded can leave an employee with a sense of being cheated and underestimated. Always give gratitude to your associates for the achieved result. Do not adorn yourself with other people’s feathers, but acknowledge the merits of successful work to everyone.
According to the statistics of the Employment Bureau in America, from 2016, the average time of stayingin one job is four and a half years. With the arrival of the younger generation of millennials, that time has become even shorter. Millennials do not expect to stay in one job for more than three years.
Such statistics are by no means good for employees either, and it is even worse for employers who have to look for and then train workers. A work environment that supports honesty, open communication, and fair relationships will have no difficulty in retaining a good worker.
Praise is one of the most important management tools we have for us. Praising human work enables the recognition and motivation not only of an individual who praises praise, but also cultivates a climate of respect.
But in general, perhaps because managers are problem-oriented or because our culture encourages criticism rather than praise, praise is not widely used. If you want to be a good employer, look for opportunities to compliment your staff. This will save you time in the long run because happier employees who feel value create fewer problems along the way.
Tip 8: Organize adequate working space
Some employees need space for team and video meetings, others need to have a separate office, some teams need open space, some employees need a desk only part of the day a week… The company’s workspace needs to be transformed in relation to individual employee needs.
We can get this by offering employees a system of interconnected zones and settings that provide users with many spaces adapted to their different ways of working. It is necessary to offer solutions that encourage people to sit, stand or move using new technologies, as well as experiences that increase human interaction through the organization of space. We must not forget that during the day it is equally important for the employee to be part of the team, but also himself, so it is important to design a combination of different spaces and give him the opportunity to choose, but also control to decide which zone suits him at what moment.
Also, new technologies should be taken into account during the process of designing and equipping different zones. Some jobs require people to spend the most time at the table, for which fixed technology is a viable solution. Others, whose jobs require increased collaboration, greater interaction, and information exchange, must be provided with mobile technology or technology that allows them to access information throughout the workspace. Given the changes in how people work today, it is necessary to consider how best to harmonize jobs and the various opportunities that new technologies provide.
By creating spaces, you create a work environment that contributes to the productivity and motivation of employees, as well as their well-being, providing them with zones with different levels of privacy – assigned jobs, private offices (accessible to all when no one is in them), silent rooms, common areas and one employee to sit and work, such as touchdown spaces, training rooms, collaboration spaces, project team zones, leisure and leisure zones, where challenges are also addressed in an informal atmosphere. Be aware of their needs, tools, knowledge, and experience on how to best adapt the space, where employees will enjoy and spend time happily, solve challenges, make and strengthen mutual relationships through the various contents that are provided to them.
Tip 9: Make employees actively engaged
Actively engaged employees, a sight that can be desired in any company. Directors in today’s companies like to see their employees actively engaged in their workplace because they are aware that employees who do their job with enthusiasm pull the whole organization forward with their energy, ideas, innovations. In times of sudden, unpredictable market movements, a modern company must be able to adapt to changes almost as soon as they occur because otherwise, the pressure of global competition can push them out of the market at high speed. In order for a modern company to be ready to face such market changes or even change market conditions with its innovations and stand out from the competition, it is necessary to have as many qualities, actively engaged employees in its ranks as possible.
Contrary to this group of employees, there is also a part of the workforce that considers their coming to work exclusively an obligation and work as much as is enough to justify their presence at the workplace. To the leader of a modern organization, such employees can act as a burden for the entire company, because by not engaging in the workplace, they can work exactly against the interests of the company in which they are employed.
In addition to these two groups of employees, there is also a group of employees who do not belong to either group but are somewhere between active engagement at work and complete mental absence. This group of employees is of special interest to today’s managers because it is easier to encourage people from this group and convert them into a group of actively engaged workers.
Most of the actively engaged employees are located within organizations that encourage two-way communication, allow access to up-to-date information about the organization, and allow people to freely express their ideas. This data suggests that the key principle in designing business space must be the creation of space for various purposes. Space for individual and group work, places for stationary and mobile employees, as well as clearly specifying the level of autonomy that would enable employees to make decisions on the most efficient way to perform their work tasks.
Tip 10: New culture of leadership and motivation
It is precisely in economically uncertain times that greater confidence in employee engagement is needed than ever before. It must penetrate to the middle management level. The management staff is now given the task to motivate and give space for getting used to. This transition will not be easy for everyone, among other things, because private apartments still partially lack a permanent place to work, so people use, for example, their kitchen table to work from home. But even if there are technical conditions today, private and family life is not always possible.
Clearly distinguish, for example, when a child can no longer be in kindergarten and when he or she has to be brought home. The employer should offer employees more flexibility to do so.
When their job is always reduced to the same job or when the job is at one point, it starts to suffocate the employees. The same job, the same position, without any indication or chance for advancement, can demotivate even the most ambitious.
But you can turn it around! If you offer them the opportunity to advance, your employees will be motivated to work harder and be more productive.
Here’s a simple tip – instead of hiring someone new, just promote someone who is already employed by the company. This will raise the motivation and productivity of all employees in your company.
However, promotion does not always mean a raise and a new position. Promotion can also be in the form of training and courses. Motivate your employees by offering them the opportunity to develop their skills and improve their knowledge. And as a result, they will be much more enthusiastic about working for you.
Modern theories emphasize autonomy and perfection in what we do as important motivating factors. If you give the employee a clear, challenging, and achievable goal and optimal working conditions (in this case at least technological), support him in mastering the necessary knowledge and skills, and show that you appreciate his commitment, there is a good chance that this approach will result in the greater engagement at work. Although supervision and sometimes control is a necessary part of the business process, control does not help internal motivation in intellectual and creative jobs. Micromanagement, on the other hand, will certainly reduce motivation and performance, because it disturbs the worker, disrupts the work process, and does not contribute to the goal. Some managers approach micromanagement more often just when employees work from home, because, as a result of their distrust of people, they have trouble understanding the concept of autonomy and intrinsic motivation.
Although the crisis situation is characterized by heightened uncertainty, we should not forget that we have been living in a rapidly changing and uncertain environment for many years. Remember one difficult and challenging situation for you, and what it was that you did and that helped you overcome it. You will become aware of your strengths that you already have (which we often forget) and which will help you in this situation as well. Acceptance of uncertainties is practiced and developed. Let’s start with small steps, for example through a new experience for you (food, music, people …) and practice regularly. The result will not be missed, and every new change and adaptation will be faster and more effective for us.