Encourage employees to return to the office
A investigation revealed mixed emotions about returning to the physical workplace, with essential workers more comfortable with security measures than those who worked remotely.
With Pfizer and Moderna Covid-19 vaccines already deployed across America and other vaccines from Janssen (Johnson & Johnson), AstraZeneca and Novavax in final trials (phase 3), the light at the end of this long pandemic tunnel cleared up. Finally.
Clearly, the Covid-19 pandemic has accelerated workforce trends, including giving employees greater autonomy in How? ‘Or’ What and or they work. Yet there will be no “quick fix” to turning on the office lights and restarting those spontaneous “coffee / water cooler” conversations that foster creativity and collaboration. In fact, new data shows that returning employees to offices will be a multi-layered process as employers strive to strike the right balance between the business needs of the company and the psychological well-being of employees.
A study of 1,000 American workers by Perceptyx suggests that employers should strongly encourage, and perhaps even encourage, vaccination, but not require it despite the recent U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) ruling that ruled that employers can require vaccinations in order to return to the physical workplace.
While vaccines help allay fears, wearing masks, social distancing and frequent cleaning were high on the list for many employees who are nervous about returning to their offices. And while many respondents favored the idea of getting the vaccine, just over half said employers should not mandate vaccination.
Helping employees feel comfortable returning to work will require more than managing rational fears of catching Covid-19. We must also manage the irrational. People are psychologically wired to caution and overestimating the potential risks. This is further amplified when the uncertainty is high.
Fostering a strong sense of psychological safety, as much as physical safety, will be imperative for employers as vaccines are rolled out and the legitimate risks of returning to work diminish.
John (name changed), a senior partner at a global services company, shared with me his predictions that it would be difficult for his company to maintain market share without sales teams returning to face-to-face meetings. to face with potential customers. Although their existing customer base maintained a strong pipeline throughout the pandemic, he said it was very difficult to virtually develop new business relationships.
“Those employees who are willing to get on a plane and meet clients, in person, will have a significant advantage over those who won’t or won’t be able to,” he said. “Sitting in front of someone makes it much easier to build trust, counter concerns, and sell business. ”
Just as there was no playbook to handle the onset of this pandemic, there is no playbook to handle the end. Employee surveys indicate that employers should consider the following when making plans.
No “one size fits all” plan
Alison, director of human resources at a tech company, said their employees could be split fairly evenly into three groups: one-third can’t wait to get back to the office and see their colleagues in person, a second-third is comfortable to come back but are not. t in a hurry, and a final third would be happy never to set foot in the physical workplace again. She hypothesized that the first and last thirds are filled with extroverts and introverts, respectively.
Data shows that organizations with a mixed workforce of essential workers and people working remotely may face the biggest challenge in establishing a comprehensive return to work plan for all. It will be important to take into account the different levels of comfort.
Plan for a gradual transition
The contrast in comfort levels with returning to the office can be explained in part by the “simple exposure effect”. This is a psychological phenomenon whereby the more people are exposed to situations with which they feel uncomfortable, the more they gradually feel comfortable with them and the less likely they are to overestimate the risks. or react irrationally (in this case, with caution) to them. This explains why employees who have seen for themselves that existing security measures are working sufficiently are much less worried about returning to the physical workplace full-time once employees start cheering it on.
Facilitating the return of remote workers in small increments will help alleviate their fears and increase their comfort level during the process.
Connect to the emotional landscape of remote workers
The level of trust between employees and their managers is strongly correlated with how they feel about returning to work. Survey data shows that the stronger the relationship, the more likely an employee is to be vaccinated if their employer recommends it.
Empathetic leaders who regularly check the emotional pulse of workgroups will be in a better position to craft messages that respond to employee fears, legitimate or not. Managers who take care of the overall well-being of employees will find it easier than those who focus solely on their performance.
Profile of the state of mind of the first returns to counter anxiety
Just as fear is contagious, so is courage. As more cautious employees see their co-workers returning to work, this will alleviate their concerns about the risks associated with their integration. Getting employees who are comfortable being back in the workspace to share their experience can reduce the resistance of remote coworkers and address their fear of risk, some of which may be overexaggerated in their own. head.
Offer flexibility, avoid mandates as much as possible
The adage that forced change is opposite change should be kept in mind because employees want to manage the way they return to work. Giving employees flexibility in how they manage their own return to work will minimize the risk of feeling pushed too far, too fast. That said, employees who can communicate the bigger “Why” to bring people together in person will help encourage those who erroneously to stay at home.
Be decisive and communicate clearly
Taking care of people and taking care of business are not mutually exclusive. They go hand in hand. Likewise, managing until the end of this pandemic will require no less courage than it took at the beginning. Leaders who have the courage to make decisions with uncertainty and to communicate clearly and compassionately the reasoning behind them will have an advantage over those who hold back and expect certainty. However, the courage to make decisions must be accompanied by the courage to change them quickly as new information emerges.
In this brave new world that we are emerging in, it will often be.
Margie Warrell encourages people to lead with courage. More information on www.margiewarrell.com