Post Pandemic: How to Manage the New Normal

The secret of change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new.” -Socrates

Within four months of companies abruptly transitioning their workforce to telework amid COVID-19, companies are now faced with a new challenge: how to transition employees back to work post-pandemic. Despite uncertainties, logistical concerns, and employee anxieties, a post-COVID-19 workplace is inevitable. Now the question organizations are facing is how to manage the new norm. As a leader, are you positioned to lead your team in the new normal? A recent PINK Poll indicates that 43% of respondents are feeling “Burned out” and another 43% say they’re most concerned about “Dealing with distractions.” Here are three fundamental steps you can take to manage the physical and psychological stress your employees are facing when transitioning back to work post-pandemic.

A safe working environment:
Attention to a sanitary workplace and employee hygiene is critical for maintaining a safe working environment for employees post-pandemic. According to a recent PwC Workforce Pulse Survey, 70% of 1,100 American workers surveyed listed several factors that were preventing them from wanting to return to work. The number one concern is the fear of getting sick from being at work. With ongoing uncertainty surrounding the coronavirus pandemic, no one knows precisely what returning to work will look like post-COVID-19. However, one thing is certain, employees want their health and safety to be their company’s top priority. You should work with the Environment, Health, and Safety, Human Resources, and Legal teams within your organization to ensure you are following all necessary guidelines for creating a safe working environment for your employees.

Also, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention published guidelines for employers to provide recommendations on how people can safely return to office buildings and work.

Listening to employees fears and concerns.
Increased communication between managers and employees will be imperative post-pandemic. Brian McGinnis, an attorney with Fox Rothschild in Philadelphia, says “a good first step for an employer to respond to an essential worker who’s expressing fears of returning to work is to actively listen to the employee and have a conversation.” Effective managers acknowledge the employee’s anxieties and personal challenges when returning to the workplace and if the concerns are reasonable provide the steps to alleviate their concerns and encourage a two-way dialogue.

 With the continuing uncertainties caused by the coronavirus pandemic, many employees are also experiencing increased stress, anxiety, worries, and fear. Many organizations have Employee Assistance Programs (EAP) services as part of their employee benefits program offered to employees at no additional costs.

Transition flexibility.
Having an entire workforce return to work on the same day post-pandemic is unrealistic and unsafe. This negatively impacts the janitorial staff responsible for the additional cleaning requirements and can impede social distancing requirements. As a best practice, organizations are implementing phased approaches to transitioning employees back into the workplace. In the phased approach small percentages of employees are brought back into the office over some time.

In addition to the phased approach, organizations are also adopting hybrid work models. In the hybrid model, the employee has the autonomy to choose how, where, and when they work best. As office spaces are redesigned to accommodate social distancing requirements to reduce the spread of COVID-19, hybrid work models can have physical and productivity benefits to the employees. Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey has embraced a hybrid work model allowing employees the option to work from home indefinitely or work from the office, with additional precautions.

 Proactive companies are exploring flexible options for transitioning employees back to work post-pandemic that will meet the needs of their employees to the needs of the business.

 A Capitalized Team-building effort.
Whether choosing a phased approach or a hybrid model, employees are feeling isolated and disconnected from the team and organization during this period of transition. As a leader, this is your opportunity to think creatively to maintain a cohesive team remotely. Schedule virtual happy hours, virtual lunches, or even start your team meeting with non-work discussions. While these items seem trivial, they can have a lasting impact in decreasing feelings of isolation and increasing a sense of belonging.

With change also comes opportunity; an opportunity to evolve into a better version of you, your team, and your working environment.

“There will be interruptions, and I don’t know when they will occur, and I don’t how deep they will occur, I do know they will occur from time to time, and I also know that we’ll come out better on the other end.” -Warren Buffet, CEO of Berkshire Hathaway

By Michelle Glover
Photo by Bruno Cervera

Michelle Glover, CEO of Journey Unlimited, is a human resource professional with over 18 years of experience in leadership, coaching, change management and HR strategy. In addition to this role, Michelle has recently been appointed Project Director for The EDGE Women’s Business Center; which empowers, educates and inspires women entrepreneurs.

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