Hybrid work and the big return
Have you worked out what you’re doing yet?!
It seems that over the past month most of my clients have been asking for advice on the big return. There are lots of different options being discussed and businesses are often getting tangled up trying to decide what to do for the best. Despite the various permutations, I am starting to see some common themes emerging:
• Employees demanding a more individualised approach to work
• Generational differences – younger peoples’ expectations of the workplace vary greatly compared to those of older people
• Skills shortages persist – I thought we were supposed to have a huge pool to fish in, after all those redundancies?!
• Mental health crisis – as restrictions ease, it’s only now that mental health issues are starting to emerge and indications so far are that there’s a tidal wave coming
If you’re the person responsible for figuring out how to navigate your way through all these challenges and work out how best to support your people, you have my sympathy! So, what’s the answer? How do you re- introduce people to the office and maintain engagement and motivation? Based on my discussions with clients so far, here are my top tips:
• Do a survey – I know you probably feel like you’ve done loads of surveys already but just as viruses mutate and adapt, so do our views. Ask people how they are feeling now? Their views have probably changed since they’ve had the vaccine, since case numbers have come down, since restrictions have started easing.
• Don’t do a survey – that is unless you’re going to do something with the data. In my experience, asking people for views and then ignoring them completely does not go down well. Of course that doesn’t mean you avoid managing expectations – there will be some things you can accommodate and some ideas you can’t. Be honest and be prepared to invest time in explaining your rationale.
• Use an agile approach – trial any arrangements you put in place and keep them under review. Don’t rush to change contracts of employment and introduce new policies just yet, give people a change to try things out and adapt as you go along.
• Communication and feedback skills – these matter like they’ve never done before! Be thoughtful about how communicate. If you haven’t yet, seriously consider getting your people managers trained up. I’m finding that lots of clients have people managers who are drowning in the responsibilities of managing a team, managing expectations, managing feedback – and they’ve never been given any training on how to do this! Virtual training is cost effective and best done in regular bursts. I time my sessions at 90 minutes max.
• Socialise – we’re all a bit nervous about being inside together, people are easing back in gently to socialising. Assuming the sun finally makes an appearance over the next couple of months, why not organise an outdoor social activity? Everyone has really missed this aspect of work so try introducing some easy ways for people to re-connect on a social level and keep it light, you don’t need to justify it with company stats, vision and plans – just do a brief catch up and make the emphasis of the event social
And finally, take it easy on yourself. Despite the image Directors and Senior Managers might want to present, everyone has had a s*%t 12 months, regardless of their job title. They each have a personal experience – the good, the bad and the ugly. I don’t know about you but now is the time when I feel my batteries are most depleted and resilience is at an all-time low. Recognise this and take your time – be kind to yourself and others.
By Ruth George – HR Consultant
This is not legal advice and is provided for general information only. © Ruth George HR Consulting.