I have been taking walks to maintain my health, to the stores to buy groceries, and to my office to pick up the mail. What I have noticed is a steady decline in people skills with those I walk past. People are no longer looking at each other in the eyes as they pass or saying a cautious, “Hi.” Some have become consumed with fear and you can see them driving cars with masks and gloves on when they are driving by themselves. This will not immediately go away, so when the stay-at-home order is lifted, organizations will have to help reintegrate employees back into the work environment to help them overcome their fear and become productive again.
What do organizations need to do to get employees over their fear, focused and productive in the “new normal”? Here are 7 steps to help:
- Accept the Inevitable: There will be a “new normal”. Organizations must realize that people are creatures of emotion and they will not feel safe immediately returning to “business as usual”. Organizations will need to acknowledge these feelings and put guidelines and protocols in place to help them feel safe.
- Be Responsible: Meet as a leadership team and come up with a strategic plan to address guidelines that need to be followed and reasonable safety measures that can be implemented. It is easy to try and “pick up where we left off” before the stay at home order was issued, but reintegration takes time and shows you care about the safety of the people in your organization.
- Open Communication: Transparency, transparency, transparency… As employees come back to work it is important to take time to openly communicate what the organization is doing to ensure their safety and wellbeing. Make sure employees know “What” you are doing and “Why” you are doing it. This will help to restore trust in the leadership and the organization.
- Be a Good Listener: One way that people relieve stress is to talk about what concerns them. Make sure your organization has a process in place to let people voice their thoughts and concerns. For small organizations, this might be a simple as an open-door policy, but for a bigger organization, this should be a more formal process that allows for tracking and resolution of issues.
- Identify Opportunities: The best ideas usually come from employees. When employees bring their thoughts and/or concerns to the organization it is good to take the time to consider how it might affect the organization. Create a system for evaluating ideas/concerns and implementing opportunities to address them. These ideas could create tremendous value for the employees and/or the organization.
- Solicit Feedback: When employees take the time to voice their ideas and/or concerns make sure they know the outcome. This helps people feel like their voice was heard, even if the organization did not implement any change. Feeling like you were heard can ultimately create more loyalty to the organizations.
- Walk the Walk: People do not respect leaders who do not follow their own policies. Make sure all the leaders are bought into all the changes that come with the “new normal” being implemented by your organization. Have regular update meetings to evaluate the progress your organization is making to reintegrate employees. Address issues or deviation in policy so all leaders know the importance of following the guidelines. It is important to have a unified front that employees can depend on.
Having a good plan to reintegrating employees back into the work environment will help them overcome their fear and become productive again. People are the most vital resource any organization has so addressing the safety and concerns of your employees upfront, may be one of the most important initiatives organizations have transitioning to the “new normal.”