Workplace dynamics have drastically changed recently. The most prominent change being, once unimaginable, the shift of employees from being mostly on-site to working from home.
The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic continues to severely affect public health and cause havoc to economies and labor markets. According to the report by Guardian, the number of people who lost their job crossed 40 million. Even though the claims of unemployment claims have slowed, millions have filed for unemployment every passing week which brings the total number of unemployed to a record low rate since the Great Depression.
In cohesion with the World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines, many steps have been taken worldwide to contain the spread of the virus. Governments measures increased as the pandemic evolved and ranged from physical distancing, restricting free movement, and the closure of non-essential companies, to the complete lockdown of cities in different parts of the world. Japanese leaders used digitization as a means to reduce the virus spread and promote a safe recovery. To maintain the sustained economic growth that plummeted sharply in the wake of COVID-19, the Japanese accelerated the shift towards digitization with hopes of curtailing the spread of disease and keeping the economy afloat. This movement could prove to be a catalyst for Japanese employers to automate their operations and retrain workers to deliver more value.
From the information cited by International Labour Organization (ILO), around 68% of the world’s workforce, including 81% of employers, is currently living in countries with recommended or required workplace closures. Recent survey findings have good news for the employers – the majority of employees are more comfortable with working-from-home and would like to keep the arrangement as it is. The employers on, the other hand, also see the boon in the situation. These include huge savings from building rental and maintenance costs and the lack of long commute times.
Despite all the benefits for employees and employers working from home, employers face essential questions and decisions on managing their teams in the transitioning circumstances.
Read on the following 12 tips for employers on how to effectively and empathetically manage this transition.
1 – Be all ears to your employees’ needs
To truly move employees to action, we must know what they care about and get into their mindset. Understand how their views on the ideal work environment may be evolving. Keep that in mind, craft a specialized response to the needs of on-site employees during a pandemic.
2 – Keep a wary eye on on-site workers
Employees working in manufacturing or other sites like labs, hospitals, or even package delivery have to be out in the field to get the job done. Take special care on hearing and understanding this strata voice. Workforce well-being—a critical part of workforce experience—has never been more critical. Educate them about safety measures, encourage sick leaves to emphasize the importance of staying at home. Think of ways to include the family members of such employees into the communication as they are most apprehensive.
3 – Establish a flexible response to where employees work in the future
Some employers may find it difficult to accept the growing interest in remote working, as many believe in physical presence to be a key behind productivity. However, the pandemic has proven otherwise as employees proved to be resourceful working from home as they were in office. Allow employees to work where they feel is the best place for them and where they can be their best.
4 – Create a smooth transition for new employees coming on board virtually
Since the pandemic, many new hirings have done completely virtually from the interview processes to undertaking tasks. Yet these employees are expected to coordinate with the other team members strictly over video meetings and phone calls, without them having a chance to mingle in person. A mentor can be assigned to these virtual hires to ensure smooth transitioning in the teams.
5 – Re-set priorities and goals, given the new realities of the economy today
Pandemic has also brought a shift in priorities. Revise the company’s current strategies in light of the current situation’s reality, along with redefining the performance goals according to which employees will be measured. Employees must explicitly have an idea of what is a high priority (essential) and what can wait. That can include revising, responding, and redirecting policies to survive. Put out your strategy on a piece of paper to serve as a strategic framework.
6 – Consider Cultural Reset
Enhance your culture to improve how you operate and win. Revamp mission and values to reflect new realities if needed. Inform your employees about the shift in values with an explanation of the rationale behind the change and expectations. Most importantly, the leadership has to be the first to walk the talk.
7 – Communicate with Impact
Ask yourself these three questions:
- What’s working and what’s not within your organization’s communication system and channels?
- Are there any issues needing immediate attention?
- Do you want to make your communication more productive?
Ask employees for their feedback and determine the most effective way to communicate in the future. Assess communication by identifying the communication successes and failures from the COVID-19 working environment.
8 – Strengthen the employee/employer relationship through trust
When employees are heard carefully, their productivity improves. Leaders need to allow the employees to voice their concerns and address those promptly. According to the study by The Grossman Group, overall employees working from home were satisfied with their employers’ responses to the pandemic.
9 – Hear the Truth Tellers
Naturally, many employees are reluctant to express their opinion when asked by those in leadership positions, as it might jeopardize their status. But leaders need to know what’s truly in the minds of their employees. To understand the real truth of what is working and what is not find the employees who don’t cut shy from expressing their candid opinion. Having frequent conversations with these truth-tellers gives insight into the organization’s unmet needs.
10 – Share success stories
When new ways of working reap, fruitful results share those wins with the teams so they can also evolve learning from evolving practices. Thank the teams and individuals responsible for making them feel recognized and appreciated for their hard work.
11 – Prepare Managers for Future
Train managers with the best practices collected from the learning of COVID-19 to equip them better to effectively manage remote and on-site teams. Hone the skills of the top minds of employees.
12 – Earn the trust of your employees
Some employees have resorted to surveillance software to ensure employees are productive while working from home. Some go even so far as requiring employees to keep webcams on to monitor their active work hours, which adversely affects the healthy employee/ employer relationship. Employers should measure productivity by the results delivered rather than the number of hours spent.
COVID-19 has forced employers to rethink the future of work. A one-size-fits-all approach is not the way of the future. Thinking outside the box and being accepting of new working arrangements adds value to the employee experience, builds engagement, and brings results.