Updated: Apr 7
With multiple vaccines rolling out in increasing numbers, a sense of optimism is finally starting to surface after a very long year.
Unlike past short-term disruptions – such as the Blackout of 2003 or various weather-related incidents – organizations won’t be able to just turn the lights back on, welcome back staff and conduct business as usual. COVID-19 has created a new normal that all companies – particularly those with a high concentration of knowledge-based workers – must take seriously.
So, what can leaders do to ensure that staff accustomed to working remotely have the same sense of connection as before? Here are three keys on how to make your workplace a magnet.
One of our guiding principles is the importance of listening to learn. By that, we mean that to assist people in adapting to change, it’s important that you provide them with an opportunity to provide their input to feel a sense of ownership with the end result.
This is particularly important as organizations plan on whether to make wholesale or major changes to their workplace before a large percentage of staff return back to the office.
A utilities company we are currently collaborating with is piloting their design and hybrid work model with a select group of employees. This input will be valuable as they decide on the new look, feel and function of their office which may include different themed areas based on the nature of each staff member’s role and requirements.
As organization’s grapple with this very important challenge, they should realize it also represents a great opportunity – to boldly challenge long held assumptions on how work should be done and reimagine the role of the office in the future. All while taking into consideration the organization’s line of business and just as important, culture.
As change practitioners for well over a decade, we know that many leaders have a tendency to want to move quickly to implement changes. Depending on the circumstances, we usually err on the side of caution because the reality is that behavioural change often takes months – not days or weeks – to sink in and more importantly, stick.
As we highlighted in our last post, multiple surveys indicate a high percentage of workers have actually embraced the sudden shift to remote work, whether it’s due to eliminating daily commutes, increased flexibility for child or elder care, or as a recent article reported, the opportunity to wear pyjamas on weekdays!
Savvy organizations and leaders realize that it’s important to be transparent in communicating what the game plan is going forward and how to prepare for it – particularly if big changes lie ahead.
Positioning the initial phase as a pilot is highly recommended as it can provide you with the ability to make modifications to the physical space and/or hybrid model based on initial and ongoing employee feedback. That can help mitigate the risk – and cost – of going all-in as some organizations have recently announced.
There is no question that the pandemic has had a major impact on what we define as a workplace. Desks and meeting rooms have been replaced – by necessity – with video calls and in some cases, kitchen and dining room tables serving as impromptu offices while pets roam in the background.
Huddles, brainstorming sessions – and even team lunches – that are often responsible for a constant flow of ideas, energy and camaraderie have been replaced by less personalized video and online discussions. As a result, collaboration and innovation have taken a hit as a recent Harvard Business Review article highlighted.
That’s why this is a great time for organizations to consider reinvigorating the physical and social elements of their workplace. Whether it’s creating new work zones, improved amenities such as fitness or meditation rooms, or a relaxed dress code (Casual Wednesdays anyone?), the objective should be to make your workplace more welcoming than ever.
Any new measures that are considered should factor in an expected rise in workers participating in a hybrid work model (mix of in-person and remote work). In lieu of the traditional milestone celebration or team lunch, there will be times when you will have to be creative in how you say thanks for a job well done.
During the conclusion of one of our recent projects, team members working virtually were treated to a complimentary meal through a popular meal delivery service. Not surprisingly, it was well-received and helped bond the team even though they weren’t all together at the office.
While these virtual celebrations are likely to become more commonplace in the future, we strongly believe physical offices are here to stay and will continue to be a gathering place for people for many years to come.
Do you need help with developing your post-pandemic strategy? Feel free to email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We would love to chat about your particular scenario and how we can help you.