Planning To Reopen Your Workplace, Think About Your People
As employers look to safely reopen the workplace and ensure the transition is as smooth as possible it is important to correctly manage the change for employees. Catherine Finn, Head of Change Management at Storm Technology has over 20 years industry experience leading and supporting clients through the design and delivery of change strategies to help employees adapt new technologies and ways of working.
In March of 2020, Covid-19 changed our personal and working lives drastically, with schools and offices closing suddenly and people practicing social distancing in line with public health measures. The worldwide pandemic forced many companies to adapt to a new way of working, creating a new normal both in our home and professional lives. From changing the services they delivered to their customers to changing how they worked with colleagues, organisations had to adjust after closing office doors and starting to work from home full-time.
Five months on and communities and businesses alike have adapted to living with the risk of Covid-19 with many businesses beginning to plan the safe reopening of their workspaces while adhering closely to government guidelines. Reopening the workplace requires business owners to put in place a number of new measures, from strict social distancing to heightened hygiene standards. They must also look beyond preparing the physical workplace, taking into consideration how this transition back to work will impact their employees and how their teams will react to another significant change.
Listen to your Employees
One of the first areas of focus when you are undergoing any change within your business is your people. Employee resistance to or fear of change can have a profound impact on the success or failure of any project and so when you look to reopen, think first of your employees and consider that they have been through a number of changes in recent months, both personally and professionally.
There may not be a general agreement or desire to return to the office amid the ongoing uncertainty. Employees will have different comfort levels in relation to how they feel about going back to the workspace and being in contact with people. To ensure employers address this in the correct way, a good starting point is an employee survey. This will give your employees a voice and enable them to share thoughts and concerns on returning to the workplace. This allows employers to gain insights that will arm them with the data to inform the plan to reopen the office.
Look at your Business
After taking some time to understand and listen to your employees, the next step is to consider your business needs going forward. For many the priorities and needs identified in early 2020 may no longer apply or require slight re-work in light of the impact of Covid-19 on your business, employees and customers.
Take some time to speak to team leaders and understand how working from home has impacted employee engagement, collaboration, and productivity amongst their teams. Compare this data with that captured in the employee survey to assess the costs and benefits of returning to the workplace, and if working from home can offer any additional long-term benefits for employees and the business. These considerations will inform your reopening plan and allow you to assess what way of working will best suit your new business needs adequately.
Keep Employees Involved
After assessing the needs of employees and the business, it’s important to keep the momentum and involve employees in the creation of the plans to reopen the office. Ask employees for their ideas and solutions, this will ensure that they feel part of the change and will be more likely to embrace it. Listening to and communicating with employees on a regular basis will also allow employers to know if there is a change in employee sentiment.
Following these steps will allow employers to build insights to see a picture of what their business needs to inform a plan of reopening. Assessing your current business and employee needs may indicate that it is not necessary to have your employees back in the office full-time, working from home may offer benefits for both employees and the business. It may also be time to consider changing the operating model of your business and implement a hybrid model. The pandemic has allowed employers to consider new ways of working that may have taken a longer time to implement prior to that. However, despite what reopening roadmap is decided, it is essential to continually assess how employees feel about the plan due to the ever-changing public heath situation.