We have all been in Lockdown for 7 weeks – well, Level 3 was much the same as Level 4 formany of us. We’ve only seen friends and colleagues through a computer screen or heardtheir voices over the phone. We’ve existed under conditions never experienced in ourlifetime – in the history of our nation even. Some of us have thrived, some of us havestruggled, and most of us have done a bit of both. Now we’re moving back to a more normalsituation. Businesses have reopened and many employees and business owners who wereworking from home are going back to their workplaces.
Many people are looking forward to a bit more normal in their lives. However, just as thetransition into lockdown was difficult, the transition back to normal-ish will also bechallenging for employees. There will be things people have been able to do or not do thatthey will find hard to let go of. For example, a manager I know, who experiences socialanxiety, has loved working from home because she is able to completely control all socialinteractions. As a result of this, her anxiety is greatly reduced and her productivity is higher.Staff with children would have seen a lot more of them during Levels 4 and 3, and those whohave relished this will need to get by on much less contact with them again.
During this messy transition period, business leaders can speed up the settling-in processand front-foot the inevitable teething problems by putting time aside for employees toreconnect with each other. Taking time to discuss everyone’s experiences of lockdown,wisdoms gained and lessons learned will go a long way to restoring a collegial, collaborativeteam environment. Many employees will have gained valuable insights into how they workbest, their optimal working environment and how to proactively manage their wellbeing.Unless there is a space to share these, the risk is the insights will be lost and not able to beapplied to the ‘new normal.’ People may also be reassessing their priorities and work-lifebalance. As one meme that has been circulating on the web puts it: “In the rush to return tonormal, use this time to consider which parts of normal are worth rushing back to.” Leaderswho provide a space to talk about this and who really listen to what their people are sayingwill be able to craft a working environment that enables all employees to thrive – and areless likely to be surprised by a resignation.
There are more quantitative gains to be made too; Covid-19 has accelerated the digitalrevolution and the flexi-work revolution, and there are no doubt many savings andinnovations that can be made permanent, having a positive impact on the bottom line. In arecent New Zealand Herald readers’ poll, only 12% of respondents were keen to get back to“the office;” 49% wanted to keep working from home and 39% said a mix of both would beideal. If 87% of employees don’t want to be in the office all the time, there are huge potentialsavings in overheads.