I Want You Back: Transitioning to our next normal post COVID-19

As the government slowly lifts COVID-19 restrictions, employers are turning their minds to planning for establishing their “next normal” post COVID-19.

As we keep hearing: There is no ‘returning back to normal’.  Normal is not as we once knew it: we are creating a new normal.

As no employees are the same and not all workplaces are the same, different strategies will need to be put in place to suit your workplace, your next normal and the needs of your employees.

In this 3-part series, we will explore the different scenarios to which employers and employees are now turning their minds:

  • Scenario 1 – Everyone returns to a physically co-located workplace, in a face to face environment;
  • Scenario 2 – A blended approach – either some now in the workplace and some working from home, or some people are now retaining a higher level of work from home than pre-COVID; and
  • Scenario 3 – The ‘workplace’ is now completely virtual, without a common physical workplace.

Today, we’re jumping into Scenario 1: ‘I want you back!’

So, what’s changed?

In response to COVID-19, workplaces have changed in numerous ways:

  • how employees communicate with each other;
  • how a business operates with its customers, suppliers, clients;
  • adopting more technologies including Zoom, MS Teams and smart devices;
  • the significantly reduced need to travel for business;
  • an increased demand by business to have a workforce that is highly skilled, flexible and elastic enough to take on tasks that may be outside their traditional role;
  • for many, the start and finish times of work are no longer the priority; the main focus has been the completion of task and achievement of goals; and
  • an increased appreciation for those who have needed to work flexibly and/or have had commitments outside of work that have possibly impacted on their career at work.

With these changes, employers who were previously anti-work from home, have been forced to consider the ongoing benefits of embracing this option. 

Scenario 1 – “All right everyone, it’s time to come back to the office”

Let’s start with our first scenario – the decision that your business wants everyone to be co-located in one, or many, common physical workplaces.  There could be many reasons for this:

  • This is where your customers need you – eg. Hospitality or other service-related industries; or
  • You don’t have the technology to maintain the current work from home approach; or
  • You are taking the Sheryl Sandberg approach, of wanting ‘everyone at work and focused’; or
  • Many other reasons!

As we outlined below, there are also going to be a number of potential hesitations from employees in returning to an ‘office’ or similar environment.  Some of the most common we have heard are:

  • No travel times!  Walking to work now takes 2 minutes (if that);
  • Business up the top, comfy down the bottom – the ability for employees to take on a ‘news reader’ approach to what they wear ‘to work’ at the moment, is hard for some employees to come back from; and
  • More ‘me’ time – not having a commute to work, many people are saying that they have more time for exercise, sleep and having afternoon tea with their kids after school (now that home schooling is finished for most!).

But there are also many reasons to return – ability to have clarity on what’s a work space and what’s a home space, so you can turn off from work; connection to team members on a face to face basis (we’re human, we still love connection); and the drain of endless video conferences where you feel like everyone is looking at you, and you can see yourself.

If you’re focused on bringing everyone ‘back’ into the office (or similar location), let’s chat about how to approach it.

Your business’ COVIDSafe Plan

If you’re wanting your team/s to return to working in one location, the first thing to consider is making sure you have a considered and up to date COVIDSafe Plan.  The National COVID-19 Coordination Commission has published a template that enables businesses to build a tailored plan focused on:

  • Keeping people safe;
  • Adapting your business; and
  • Accessing support and assistance.

We encourage you to download the COVIDSafe Plan template here, for consideration in your business.

Now, for your People

As employers start to prepare to shift to a new normal for their teams and organisation, they may need to plan for a variety of responses from employees.  Below are some suggestions on the best way to approach each ‘type’ of employee mindset, when transition back to the office:

As you look to bring your employees back into a co-located workplace, it is important to ensure your employees are prepared for a return to work and that employees are engaged, motivated and productive. 

To do this, Seed has put together some strategies to help make this transition smoother, by drawing on our experience with change management.  Jump across to our Instagram page to check out some more Tips & Tricks for transitioning your employees back to the office!

Want to know more?

Seed People Consulting are experts in change management and managing team engagement.  If you would like to discuss the tools you have in place or are looking for tailored resources to assist with this transition, please contact Seed via our website www.seedpeopleconsulting.com.au