2020 isn’t halfway over yet, and many of us have already endured a crash course in remote team management. There is talk about the increasing relevance of remote work in the age of coronavirus. People say the workplace will never be the same. People aren’t wanting, and according to a number of articles, won’t travel as much as they come back to work.
These things may very well be true – but even now, social distancing rules are being relaxed. Teams that have been working in isolation are matriculating back to the workplace. Slowly but surely, colleagues and contacts are beginning to meet in person again.
What will we discover as we come back? Is the workplace changing as much as we think, or even more? What will be the difference between teams that succeed in the coming months, and those that lag behind?
These are questions each team must answer as work resumes. The logistics of operating a workplace will have changed to varying degrees, due in no small part to an increased focus on germs. There are also performance and workplace dynamics to consider. Changes will vary by industry, and according to the nature of each organisation.
With so many variables in play, here are a few simple ideas to bring your team back from isolation with a high level of morale and success.
Studying what’s changed
Any team with a solid grasp of how their business environment has changed will have a leg up as they return from isolation. The problem is that nobody knows how things have changed – at least not exactly. The situation is evolving, and will only continue to evolve. Each organisation has to find their way through it.
Some will stick with a more-or-less unilateral approach. Team leaders will put their heads together, create new policies, and inform their employees. But in a situation like this, new ‘best practices’ are actively being discovered whilst many team members, at all levels, have come to realise they can do part of their jobs differently, using more technology and less face to face time. In this light, it makes a lot of sense to strike a collaborative tone and build new policies from the inside, sharing ideas and increasing team solidarity in the process.
Let’s not forget: Before the pandemic, remote work was already becoming more prevalent. Greater attention to health and wellness were being built into the policies and campuses of many organisations. Different ways of looking at human resources and talent management were already showing up, whether in SMEs or big corporations.
Seeing eye-to-eye with people
Many of the changes we experience around the workplace will arise from the fact that things have changed with individuals – relationships and roles at home, new attitudes toward health, changed priorities, new ways of working, people realising that they can be equally productive working all or part of their job from home. Some commentary is suggesting that team members are going to be more demanding of what they want from their job, and that this will help determine where they choose to work. It has never been more important for management to see their team members at eye-level, and to consider how different people’s lives have been affected.
Getting back to basics
As we appreciate individual stories, we can’t lose sight of the operational story. Business contacts will need to be renewed. Employees will need to be reacquainted with the company vision and business plan. Teams will need to mind-meld and refresh their sense of collective purpose. In many cases, after a long and dizzying stretch of work-from-home, people will need help refocusing at the physical workplace. Understanding what’s changed with customers is another major task for teams returning from isolation.
The need for great leadership
A team’s return from isolation – whether it’s a team of ten people or a thousand people – is an invitation to build new levels of engagement within the organisation.
It’s the perfect opportunity to say, “Guys, what has worked well during our time apart? How do we build that into our new way of working?”
As we return to work, the importance of collective problem-solving underscores the need for great leadership, high-quality HR practices where the focus is on people rather than compliance, and the right attitude toward talent management and the different ways in which productivity is built and maintained. The pandemic is a great challenge to countless industries, no doubt – but the depth of the challenge has the potential to make organisations, teams, and departments stronger from within.
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