We live and work in unprecedented times. There is no historical model to reference. Nor is there a proven roadmap. We live in a time where best practices may or may not apply – as we reconcile the new workforce and new normal in which we all operate today. We need to know that there is a clear path to the future, but the reality is that there remain many unknowable variables in order to define that direction. So, leaders must do what they do best – guide their organizations and teams through the changes and uncertainty in which we are all navigating.
Simply put, all our organizations are made up of people, and how those people are supported and connected will determine the future of the organization. It is important to understand both the psyche and the current reality when addressing re-entry into the workplace amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.
The reality speaks to the need to restart businesses immediately, however there is conflict in deciding both the right time and the safe time. The unknown will remain the greatest unknown, for example, not knowing if customers are ready and if they can pay for goods and services. There are competing considerations of the COVID-19 spread versus the fear of the return versus the fear of continued employment and income. Even if each person believes they are practicing safe standards, they are not convinced others are being as careful as they are.
On the other hand, to understand the employee and consumer psyche, it is important to recognize that people may not know what to believe, may not know what is safe, may not know whom to trust, and have many concerns regarding their health and finances. People want to get back to their lives and their work, but they are afraid, and do not know where to begin or how to prioritize. Leaders, employees, and consumers all need to feel safe, and in order to reach that feeling, trust must be built with and within each constituency.
Understanding, informing, educating, and connecting with employees and customers can be split into three primary categories: Neutralize, Build Trust, Create Action.
The first step is neutralizing. As previously mentioned, employees are both fearful and incapable of moving forward with so much uncertainty and conflicting news, so it is primarily imperative to provide a sense of balance and work in order to create an environment from which employees may begin to process a return to business.
Next is building trust. Trust is essential in any relationship, regardless of if this relationship is inside or outside the company, as it is a core element that a psychologically safe environment requires in order to function. Therefore, leaders must understand how to establish authentic relationships with employees as well as employees and their trust in the organization and its leaders.
Last is creating action. Many people believe action is required to reignite the local economy and return to a normal, however, it is critical to encourage intentional action, otherwise someone will get hurt and energy will be wasted, ultimately hurting the business.
Re-entry is possible, critical to our success as a country, and quickly approaching. It is increasingly essential to understand not only the why but also the how.
To further help you, we have crafted a “Top 10 List of Considerations for Re-Entry”. This is a no-nonsense and pragmatic list of things to understand and actions to take as we are all bringing our teams back into work. We alas do not have the space in this column to cover it, but we encourage you to download it from our website and share it broadly with your management teams.
Our full guide The Re-Entry: The Big Concepts which includes the Top 10 List is available for free download by visiting Bermuda Clarity Institute’s website at www.clarity.bm/research . There you learn more about our research in navigating uncertainty and achieving clarity in the workplace.