Conversations with neighbors, friends and co-workers highlight the joy of letting go of the anxiety and apprehension that has gripped many over the past year. People emerge from their homes – some having been secluded in home-offices while others on the front-line revel in a safer work environment. We all want to “go back to normal” however as we consult with our clients we find that nothing is normal and that rebuilding the work team and work environments require consideration and careful planning. A few of the areas that stand out for focus include acknowledging the need for flexibility and adaptability, developing rapport and transparent/confident leadership.
Rapport & Relationships
We hear some frustration and disappointment in our conversations as people say they have lost their community. This happened on a personal level due to Shelter in Place and Social Distancing as well as to the valued work community. Due to the pandemic, relationships dwindled that in the past provided energy, mentoring, humor and a bit of spark to our days. The “collision opportunities” are not there for a brainstorm conversation in the hallway, a compliment on a job well done or simply a chance to hear about your co-workers’ families and personal lives. As we slowly start bringing our teams together in person, one of the main goals seems to be re-building rapport and renewing relationships. Our clients choose to accomplish this by combining in-person fun team building with a picnic or motivational retreat (one recent group actually camped out together).
Flexibility & Adaptability
Nobody can say that most employees have not been flexible and have adapted stunningly to the wild changes experienced over the last 15 months. However, the changes continue. As some employees may choose to stay at home with the blessing of their employers, others go back to a new location (perhaps on a hybrid schedule) or need to figure out new technology or processes that have been “improved” during this break in business as usual. Our interest in change and our skills in making transitions smooth vary and are often governed by personality type as well as the types of communication with the work team. Many teachers have rolled with the continually updated messaging and rules this past year. Some enjoyed teaching on Zoom while others ended up quitting or retiring because it was not the career they wanted anymore. Those working in hospitality have struggled mightily to keep food on the table with no leisure or business travel to keep them employed. As we bring back that those teams, new cleaning practices now abound, as do many touchless systems for customer-interaction.
A subset of your work group, the leadership team, has a big job in front of them. So many companies were able to offer working alternatives to their teams. Now that vaccines are prevalent, these leaders have to determine how to re-open fully. Whether it is bank, restaurant or tech co, the leaders need to balance how best to serve their customers, respect the concerns of their employees and make a profit. Leadership teams must take the time to meet in advance of large-scale communications. Facilitating these important conversations have shown us that each company’s solution is different from the next. Employee feedback helps to inform the leaders as do financial scenarios. Change often involves small steps and short-term milestones to evaluate success.
The important skills of teamwork and effective communication combined with solid planning should rebuild a united workforce and strong economy.
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