COVID-19: Be there for your team as restrictions ease

The future of work is here. So how are you re-engaging your people?

2020…we have never been through a time like this, and we’re likely to see enduring changes to the way we go about both our personal and work lives in the future.

These changes can stir up a range of emotions in all of us – fear, anger, anxiety, curiosity, uncertainty – and as an employer, it’s important to acknowledge these emotions and address them with your people as we all plan our returns to office life.

Carefully managing the enormous spectrum of emotions of every employee during this vulnerable time is crucial.

While some people have adapted well to working and collaborating remotely, most have found it a challenge, with increased pressure in their personal and professional lives. Some now eagerly await a return to the office, while others have settled into new rhythms and are enjoying the increased flexibility, non-existent commutes, tracksuit pants and the opportunity to be there for their families.

Yes, COVID-19 has forever changed the way we work, and how you continue to keep your team informed, engaged and connected over the coming months will shape the future of your business.

Why re-engaging is important

“Employees in high-trust organisations are more productive, have more energy at work, collaborate better with their colleagues, and stay with their employers longer than people working at low-trust companies.” Harvard Business Review

With the future being so unpredictable, there is no benchmark for people’s expectations of what returning to work might look like. Whether it was a chat around the kitchen coffee machine with co-workers, lunch meetings with clients, or even the odd hug, all our standard forms of interaction and behavior will be altered.

How much of our old ways will remain? How will dynamics have changed? How many of us are allowed at the photocopier at once?! 

Known cultural norms and ways of interacting have changed, so being crystal clear with you people at this time is absolutely critical.

What are we doing at Bunch?

There’s no “best practice” playbook for organisations to refer to when re-engaging after the COVID-19 lockdown. So we all must draw on the principles of good communication and empathy to help us get our workplaces back up and running.

At Bunch, we’ve started thinking about how to best communicate a positive yet realistic invitation for our people to return to the office. We’re focused on bridging the gaps between expectation and reality, to reduce potential disappointments and keep our team connected.

Some of our team will continue to work from home and those in the office will encounter new ways of interacting. It’s truly is a whole new ball game for us all.

It’s also so important for us to remember that we’re all human, and each of us will react differently in the coming weeks and months. Because of this, establishing empathy amongst colleagues is vital, so we can make sure everyone feels supported and encouraged through this change.

One of the things we’ve developed to take us into this new phase is a set of principles (not a policy!) that signal we will be fully flexible on location – even beyond COVID-19.

These principles are anchored in safety, trust, empowerment, getting even more awesome with digital tools, creating the best virtual work experience possible (one screen, one face), and adapting as we go. We know not everything will work, and that’s ok, we’ll give it a crack and adjust as we go.

We’re happy to share our flex location principles too, just get in touch!

We’ve also been very deliberate in establishing a number of different forums that allow us to stay connected and check in with each other. Every Friday we’d gather around the kitchen table for drinks and nibbles and, although it’s now BYO (and at home), we’ll still have our Friday catch-ups over Zoom.

Finding new ways to keep your existing cultural rhythms going is so important.

Other opportunities we’ve introduced to help us connect include our ISO buddy system and an increased use of collaboration tools. We’ve even changed our meeting rhythms to ensure shorter, more frequent meetings are occurring across the business.

What are you doing to re-engage your employees?

Team members will experience a mix of emotions over the coming weeks, however, where there is a challenge, there is also an opportunity.

By leading with smart and well-planned communication, businesses can strengthen their internal culture and re-engage team members during this next chapter.