Leaders across the country and globe are trying to figure out how to return employees to work. They are restarting operations or ramping up business. In many cases, they are asking employees to return to offices and factories shut down since March.
It’s a moment of great hope, as leaders and teams begin to build a brighter future. But also a time of uncertainty and fear, as employees remain concerned for their safety amid a still-present pandemic and as individuals and organizations wrestle with questions of race and equality in the wake of George Floyd’s death.
How can a leader succeed with their business reentry? For starters, we suggest reframing the question. There isn’t anything to “reenter.”
The old way of doing business is gone for now, and may never return. The businesses that are thriving – and will continue to thrive – are those that are treating this crisis as a condition likely to last and as an opportunity to leap forward.
A few other principles for returning to work are vital, based on our research and conversations with leaders of Best Workplaces™:
This is a time to practice what we call “Innovation By All”—inviting everyone to contribute ideas for creating a safe and successful organization. Why? We know that inclusive innovation is vital to thriving during a downturn. And a spirit of co-creation will allow organizations to best tap new automation technologies.
“What if I get sick when I come back?” “Has this surface been disinfected?” Employers need to anticipate and understand anxiety and fear in the workplace. This means flexing to employees’ physical safety and emotional well-being needs.
Leaders who put themselves in the shoes of their people—even spending time on the front lines with them—will build the trust that is critical now.
We were already on the path toward a more personalized workplace experience, with individualized benefits and work arrangements. Personalization matter more than ever, because employees are experiencing the pandemic and social upheaval very differently.
4. Realistic hope
Without denying the challenges in front of us, frame this moment as one with great possibility. Acknowledge the positives that have already emerged, ranging from a cleaner environment in recent months to closer connections among team members and a growing global consciousness of the need for true equality under the law.
In other words, help your organization see that this moment, despite all its challenges, holds great promise. That’s what we genuinely believe at Great Place to Work®. This is a tipping point for building a better world by creating great places to work for all, everywhere.