Individuals and organizations have had to address so much change in the past several months. From managing operations in new ways to working remotely to utilizing different technologies to interact with colleagues and clients, there are very few things about our jobs that remain the same.
Now, just as we may have started to become comfortable with telecommuting, an increasing number of organizations worldwide have an opportunity to return to their physical workplaces.
For many, going back to the office can feel as daunting as the initial switch to remote work. For others, it may feel like a welcome step toward normalcy even if you find yourself sitting six feet apart from your nearest coworker.
No matter your personal preferences, businesses are needing to move forward and carefully consider their options to return to the office, stay at home or provide a mix of both. As your organization considers its path forward, I invite you to take a WEapproach™ (or Whole Emergenetics approach) to reflect on the needs and concerns of each Attribute to help inform your next steps.
Normally, when considering a WEapproach, I go in the order of our Attributes through the Profile. Given the state of the world, I think it’s important to start with the Social Attribute, which is most focused on people. Your team members will likely have a variety of thoughts, feelings and emotions as they manage the pandemic, family, themselves and their jobs.
Your employees’ well-being is essential to their mental and physical health as well as their engagement with and perception of your organization. Take time to discover their insights and get their feedback to gauge their preferences for returning to the office or staying at home. From our experience at Emergenetics, I can say the results of these surveys are extremely helpful in designing your approach. For ideas on how to build your own pulse survey, here are a few templates from Quantum Workplace.
Those individuals with an Analytical preference (and others) will be interested in learning what the experts say about re-entry. At minimum, be sure that you are following recommendations from authorities like the CDC and make sure your workspace reflects these standards and guidance if you choose to open.
I also encourage you to borrow best practices and lessons learned from other companies who have been operating physical storefronts throughout the pandemic. Many organizations like Kroger are happy to share their insights. Consider their inputs and identify ways your organization can model your plans from organizations who are more experienced with the re-opening process.
While some of your team members may gravitate toward the big picture, now is not a time to skimp on the details about your plans. Provide your employees with a clear, detailed process describing how your organization will make decisions about re-entry or remaining in virtual environments.
If you choose to bring some or all of your team members back to the office, get granular about:
- Cleaning processes for your office space and building.
- Expectations for staff, including any rules around temperature checks, travel restrictions, etc.
- Guidelines to help those who do return to work keep themselves and their families safe. You can borrow some of these tips from the American Medical Association.
Consider what opportunities may be available to your organization as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Is now the time to reimagine your physical and virtual workspaces? The prospect of what could be is likely an engaging question for those with a Conceptual preference!
Invite staff to share their ideas to redesign the space to accommodate the needs and wishes of team members. Also, ask for insights into new ways to make virtual work more effective. As you navigate the decision regarding re-entry, it can be helpful to consider a long-term view that might be inclusive of both ongoing work-from-home options as well as reconfigured space plans.
Whether you plan to return to the office or choose to work remotely for the time being, create feedback loops throughout the process that speak to employees across the Expressiveness spectrum.
For those in the first-third of Expressiveness, try providing regular survey touchpoints to get real-time information or create a virtual forum where staff can share their thoughts in writing. For those in the third-third of Expressiveness, offer a video call where they can voice feedback and encourage employees to connect with a trusted manager or leader.
Depending on the needs and interests of your employee base and business, you may feel the need to move at a third-third Assertive pace and return to the office quickly – or you may have an opportunity to move more gently at a first-third Assertive pace.
To help your organization set an appropriate timetable, reflect on:
- Feedback you receive from team members
- Business needs of your organization
- Safety standards and office reconfiguration expenses
- Technology or systems needs that may or may not exist when working from home
Even when we consider a WEapproach to help us make the best decision possible for our teams and businesses, circumstances will continue to change just as we’ve experienced over the past several months. A constant state of imposed change is particularly challenging for those in the first-third of Flexibility – and it can wear on your third-third Flexibility crowd as well.
Be up front about what factors may cause you to deviate from your company’s stated plan. While you may not know all the variables, acknowledging what may cause further change will help individuals across the Flexibility spectrum feel more confident in your decisions and next steps.
I also encourage you to be mindful of what flexibility you can offer team members to allow them to work in the way that best supports their needs and well-being regardless of whether that means staying at home, a return to the office or a bit of both.
The decisions around workplace re-entry are not easy. As we navigate yet another unfamiliar situation, you can set your company and team members up for success by taking a thoughtful approach that is inclusive of each of the Emergenetics Attributes. Your employees will appreciate the thought, care and empathy that will come from careful consideration.