If there's one thing we can all agree on, it's that COVID-19 will have a lasting impact on the workplace. It's already forced employers to adopt a new mentality around remote work. It's encouraged us to ask new questions about the way offices are designed, the way teams collaborate and the speed at how quickly we have had to adapt to change.
One day soon, the world will begin to consider a full "return to work". We explored this in a recent webinar with Kris Dunn, author or the 9 Faces of HR, founder of Fistful of Talent and the HR Capitalist and CHRO at Kinetix, and Tim Sackett, President of HRU Technical Resources.
We explored not only how work continues to change during this pandemic but key considerations and what it means for your people practices, your employees, managers, and culture moving forward. Here are a few insights from Kris Dunn on how HR pros are preparing for the "new normal".
Creating a new "normal"
The jury's out on the new normal and what that looks like for workplaces around the globe. What we know is that COVID-19 has significantly altered the way organizations and employees perceive remote work. We also know that some employees have fully embraced working from home, some are eager to get back to their office, and others desire a flexible routine that offers both.
One thing is for sure, if you aren't flexible with remote work, you risk your competitors swooping in and offering that convenience to your employees. And while there are both benefits and tradeoffs to remote work, leaders will want to leave some flexibility for their people to decide what works for them.
Employees will need a new kind of support from their managers
Everyone will feel the effects of a new work reality, but leaders will be tested the most. As we begin to embrace flexible work arrangements, managers will see a different combination of employees in the office every day. They'll need to be increasingly agile as they balance traditional skillsets in a fluid and complex environment.
Managers will need additional training to handle the increase in digital interactions. Leaders will need to foster employee-to-employee collaboration regardless of location, says Kris, instead of being the glue that holds it all together. Managers might rely more heavily on their HR team to help them nurture these new skillsets.
Leading during COVID
We explored a range of other topics in the webinar on the impact for people practices and culture, however, most HR leaders still had more questions than they had answers. Here's a recap of some of the most pressing questions from the audience about work and COVID-19 answered by Kris Dunn and Tim Sackett.
How can I manage a low-performer who works from home? Increase goal-setting and 1:1 time with this person. The natural reaction to managing more remote workers is to decrease the frequency of your performance management meetings. And most of the time, especially with your high-performers, this is okay. But, if you feel like somebody is falling behind from a performance perspective, you should be increasing goal-setting and check-ins, not decreasing them.
How do we manage employees without being overbearing? Many leaders enjoy the visual proof of seeing their team in the office every day. With employees at home, leaders have to confirm their people are working without policing them. While there's no one-size-fits-all answer, Kris recommends that you increase the activities where your people tell you what they're going to accomplish today, this week or this month. The hope is that we'll settle into a new normal with more trust.
How do I get the equivalent of walking through the breakroom and having an informal conversation? We have to find ways in a digital environment to check-in! Set aside time to regularly interact with others about something non-work related. A great way to do this is to share news articles you think the person would be interested in. Another popular suggestion among our webinar attendees was the idea of starting a "break room" channel within your communication tools. Keep it open all day so employees can step away from work for a second and talk about something else.
Be flexible, agile and optimistic
At the end of the day, the way COVID-19 has changed the world of work is new for everyone. The need to balance care, empathy and doing right by employees, with the business changes that may be required has always been critical when people's livelihoods and now their well-being are impacted.
And while we can't anticipate exactly what the future holds, there is one thing experts agree on. The workforce won't revert to exactly how it was pre-COVID, but if we're flexible and agile, we can find an improved new reality.