Managing staff in the “new normal”

Wednesday June 17, 2020

For many businesses, the immediate disruption of the COVID shutdown is now evolving into the excitement of returning to work. But will it be business as usual?

The reality is, your staff will be feeling a range of emotions about returning to work which will complicate your return to normal operations. As a result, you and your line managers (if you have them) will need communication and management skills you haven’t used before.

A single approach won’t work

How your employees are feeling about the imminent return to work will depend on their individual motivations and experiences. Some staff will be eager to return to the workplace. Others may have enjoyed the experience of working from home and will want it to continue indefinitely. There may even be staff who want the option to do both. That’s why a one-size-fits-all approach won’t work.

More importantly, if you and your management team fail to ensure staff concerns are heard, you will alienate your team – leading to performance issues and potentially the loss of great staff. However, for businesses who can manage it, the post-COVID return to work will be the dawn of truly flexible work arrangements with the potential to reduce or eliminate a physical workplace!

How to start your return to work plan

Step 1:  Begin with examining the needs of your business – what’s required to survive in the short-term and thrive in the longer term.

Step 2: Evaluate your onsite staffing requirements. Remember, now is the time to examine whether your past operational model provides the best means to achieve your future goals.

Step 3:  Speak to each employee individually, with compassion and openness. The purpose of these discussions is to evaluate what their work preferences are and how you can blend the needs of individual workers with the greater needs of the business.

Taking this approach means you may discover some insights that will help you and your management team make important business decisions. For example, you may fear you need to make redundancies but you may have staff members who would now prefer to work part-time. This could make redundancies unnecessary.

Remember, the return to work plan doesn’t necessarily mean everyone returns to a physical workplace. It simply means transitioning to the next phase of living and working with COVID-19.

A COVIDSafe workplace addresses psychological safety

When you are planning how you will keep staff safe and reduce the spread of COVID-19, their psychological safety needs consideration.

The term “psychologically safe” means understanding, respecting and supporting each employee’s fears and concerns. That doesn’t mean the needs of the business are ignored. It’s about striking a balance where everyone wins.

Achieving a sense of psychological safety should include an environment where your staff feel they can speak out when they’re feeling uncomfortable or anxious. Once staff have shared their concerns, ensure your return to work plan addresses these issues and provides staff with the information they need to feel safe and supported by you.

Managing remote staff

When all staff are working from a central location, it’s easy to see how they are going and what they are doing. But if your business continues to have staff working remotely, it’s time to develop a more sustainable approach to managing a remote workforce.

Too often, management teams look at input. While important, a more critical component is actually communicating output expectations.

By setting and communicating realistic goals on a daily, weekly and monthly basis, everyone is clear about what’s expected and what a productive workday looks like. Clear performance expectations empower the management team to intervene when performance seems to be sluggish.

Good or exceptional performance also needs to be recognised and appreciated. COVID-19 hasn’t changed that component of people management. What has changed is the way in which you or your line managers check in with staff. The key is to be personal and genuine. Ask questions and be interested in the answers.

Need a helping hand?

COVID-19 has changed many things but there is always one constant you can rely on. That’s help and guidance you can count on from the team at the HR Dept. Call us today.



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