ACCELERATING OUT OF LOCKDOWN : ENERGISING THE WORKPLACE
Bring everyone along as you create and embrace the future of work .
ery few people had steeled themselves for a
V year of isolation , anxiety , remote working and uncertainty . One year in , and our reserves are depleted . At the very point businesses need employee energy and focus the most , we are at our lowest ebb . Add to that the fact that we need to fundamentally change the construct of work for the first time since the industrial age , and these are challenging times .
We need employee energy , creativity and collaboration more than ever if we want to accelerate out of lockdown . Four focus areas will help with this : coming out of furlough well ; ensuring strong leadership connection ; supporting and strengthening ‘ the middle ’; and co-creating the future of work .
Rebuild through a shared goal
We can ’ t predict what the end of furlough will look like . Some businesses will sadly need to make redundancies ; others will struggle as furloughed colleagues choose not to restart their roles . In other circumstances , organisations will be faced with a significant workforce to re-energise in short order . Whatever the situation , it ’ s important to both recognise furloughed colleagues for their loyalty and acknowledge the disconnected year they ’ ve endured . As you bring colleagues back , ensure your restart narrative brings those colleagues ‘ into the tent ’ quickly .
Look for a common cause to rally people behind , in addition to the business rebuild . This could be linked to your organisational purpose or brought to life as a ‘ welcome back ’ or recognition campaign . After a difficult year , find ways to make work a positive experience .
Connect with colleagues at all levels
I know many CEOs felt that lockdown helped them connect more closely and be more visible : we mustn ’ t lose that now . How can the exec connect more closely with colleagues at every level ? There are many ways to deepen leadership connection , including arranging virtual site visits , where members of the exec spend a day with colleagues from a single office or location at a time . The focus here should be on recognising their contribution during the past year ( be specific ) and sharing the vision for the future . Create opportunities for conversation and hear what they have to say .
Town hall meetings are another great way to connect , but make sure you ’ re telling people what they want to hear , not just what you need them to know . Taking questions in advance means you can come with the detail colleagues are looking for . Supplement these scheduled meetings with more informal CEO and exec communications , whether writing blogs for your employee social platform or joining smaller team meetings to say thank you and take questions .
Engage line managers
Line managers — the people in the middle — are more critical than ever ; make sure they have the skills to lead through uncertainty . Empathetic leadership , listening and co-creation will help to strengthen teams . Support line managers to see their communication and engagement role and the important link they have to business recovery .
Some managers might find it motivating to be challenged to see engagement as a performance metric like any other and given regular conversation topics with prompts to stimulate debate in their teams . Ask managers to create and strengthen networks within the business ; for example , they could host another team to share a case study , or organise ‘ randomised ’ coffee meet-ups between individuals or small groups .
It ’ s important to think now about the skills you ’ ll need to make hybrid working successful
Ask colleagues to co-create with you
When considering the future of the workplace , it might feel early to decide now that you ’ ll be fully office-based or fully flexible or somewhere in between . Don ’ t rush ; take the time , accept that the future of work is an experiment and ask colleagues to be part of the journey — to co-create that future . Position a future of work strategy as a pilot : if you overconsult , you ’ ll never get consensus ; if you call a permanent position now , you ’ re likely to come undone . Get teams to try different arrangements and ask them to feed back and focus on a desired outcome .
Skills of the future
We need employee energy , creativity and collaboration more than ever if we want to accelerate out of lockdown
It ’ s important to think now about the skills you ’ ll need to make hybrid working successful — it will be so much harder than a fully remote set-up . From communication skills , building resilience , networking , focusing on wellbeing and prioritising mental health , to ensuring the leaders model positive hybrid working , there are a number of ‘ muscles ’ that we need to strengthen now .
Louisa Moreton is a partner at Finsbury Glover Hering , specialising in employee engagement , communication and change .