The roaring 2020s started with a bang: an economic recession, global health crisis, and a worldwide shutdown of businesses (it wasn’t quite what we all hoped!). Since the beginning of March, we’ve all been forced to focus predominantly on crisis management. For weeks, businesses were fully or partially shut down and had to adapt to ever-changing laws and consumer behaviors. As companies are being allowed to reopen, we must take action in ensuring that we move in a positive and proactive direction.
Returning to work as usual is not only impossible, it would be a mistake. To move forward meaningfully, we must find our next normal and make changes that include continuing remote work where possible, adapting our language and communication style, changing company policies, and responding with strong leadership that leads by example. Companies and their leaders can take action in making sure staff can continue to work safely, and that culture and morale don’t suffer. This is an opportunity for ongoing improvement so that businesses can rebound from COVID-19 more resilient and resourceful than before.
Remote Work Really Works!
It’s important for companies to be thoughtful and flexible when planning to bring staff back into the office. Increased safety measures within the workspace must be meticulously planned and implemented. We’re all nervous about stepping back out into the world after so much time being quarantined. Some employees may be at high risk for COVID-19, or have people in their family who are high-risk and are concerned about being in close proximity to other people. There are also the mental health concerns of trying to thrive and be productive, in an environment where someone doesn’t feel safe. Providing a safe location in the office for those who come in, and allowing employees to continue working from home both help decrease anxiety and gives a real sense of safety.
We’ve seen during this experience that remote work is a viable and vital option. Many of us have enjoyed the benefits of being home and staying active with our jobs. Employees can thrive and be productive in this environment, a reality that many companies have already acknowledged and have been benefiting from. Many companies may choose to schedule certain days every week as work-from-home for all their staff. Collectively, we can become more intentional on how we spend our time and resources. The overhead cost savings from not having people in the office for one or two days per week can really add up. Working remotely allows employees to save on fuel and auto expenses, and spend their commute time in a more productive way — and we know our dogs love the company!
To promote a unified, empowered company culture that fuels employee trust and loyalty, leadership should take the opportunity to not only make healthy accommodations in the workplace, but to also continue to allow staff to work from home if they so choose. Flexibility will keep everyone satisfied.
Switch Out that Speech: Phrasing Changes
If there’s one word we’ve all heard more than ever before, it’s the word “essential”. We’d even be willing to wager that it might become one of the 2020 words of the year. While the original usage of the word was meant to prevent much of the population from exposure risks, the meaning has shifted. Now that businesses are opening, all workers want to be considered important and needed. Our employment and incomes are essential to our lives. Though being deemed “unessential” in March was meant to be a safety precaution, now is the time to drop the term. In other words, everyone on your staff is essential.
Additionally, the phrase “back to work” should be retired. Millions of employees may not have been in a physical office, but they were working just as hard, if not harder, from home locations. While both are commonly used phrases today, they certainly carry a heavier connotation that can quickly be construed as negative. Meaningful language choices are important to ensure that your employees feel valued, wanted, and yes, essential. Instead of inviting employees back to work, invite them back to the office.
Adapt to New Policy Changes
COVID-19 has created some clear policy changes for businesses, as the government steps in and issues mandates. Be sure to leave politics and opinions aside while supporting your team in following the regulations.
“A company’s mission should be reflected in any new or enhanced policies — they must be aligned with company values to be understood, accepted, and appreciated,” mC