ASK ALAN: What Will “Back to Normal” Look Like for Your Company
The pandemic has changed our lives and how people feel
Many business leaders are anxiously anticipating the vaccine solution toward “herd immunity” from COVID. The pandemic has disrupted all our lives to various degrees. Many of us have suffered deeply during the past year. Some have experienced personal loss, and others are suffering from depression or anxiety. It is important to realize that the pandemic was not simply an interruption in the way our businesses work; it changed our lives and how people feel!
Think before you jump back into old routines
My advice is to think carefully before trying to get back to your old routines. Take the time to evaluate different positions in the office.
When it is safe to return to work in person, here is my warning: Do not simply jump back into the old routines. Some people working from home have missed the personal connections and interaction with co-workers. They may even feel depressed from the confinement and restrictions of the past year. These people cannot wait to return to the office. Others may want to continue working from home, a place where they feel a sense of safety and security.
Listen with empathy
Next, talk with your employees to see how they feel. Ask what would make them feel most comfortable. This does not mean giving in to all their requests. Listen with empathy. You may learn that some employees would rather continue working remotely. Ask yourself: did they work as efficiently remotely as they did in person? Not everyone does, and that is to be expected. However, if you have noticed their work has not been up to par, talk with them about this. Let them know the quality of their work will be evaluated on a monthly (or bi-monthly basis). The results may pose the possibility of returning to in-person working. Some companies have already made the decision to continue all (or some) of their employees working remotely forever. Others are going to require that all employees return to the office.
Again, listen with empathy! If you find that some employees are disappointed, consider how you can help with this situation to keep their morale up. Maybe schedule weekly in-person lunch or breakfast meetings by department. Or encourage quarterly company get-togethers; consider volunteering in the community. Remember, some employees will not feel comfortable with gatherings of any type. Their feelings need to be taken into consideration.
People are different from one-another
It is important to keep in mind that people are different from one-another. This is NOT the time for one-size-fits-all solutions. I understand that not every business has the luxury to entertain these options, but you need to begin thinking about this now.
I am convinced that empathic leadership will determine the most successful businesses in the future. Those leaders who can navigate returning to a new normal successfully will have employees who care and perform with the business in mind. With this behavior, everyone wins!