After several months of lockdown, the country is beginning its stage of reopening, marking a big step towards returning to normalcy. As an employer, it’s important to understand that the new normal is going to look much different than life pre-COVID-19. And with the economy back on the rise, employers will need to know just how to navigate this new standard and keep their businesses operating successfully.
While the rebuilding stage of the U.S. economy is forecasted to be a long process, many business leaders are developing roadmaps that are safe for their employees and in alignment with guidance from local, state and federal officials. To ensure the re-opening process is a success, there are other factors to take into consideration beyond maintaining a physically safe work environment.
I came across a recent Harvard Business Review article that poignantly discusses this, and I thought it was important to share some of their points along with a few of my own. Read the 5 Ways to Lead Your Team Into a Post-Pandemic World below.
- Clearly communicate your plan.
Most businesses have already begun to outline what their reopening is going to look like and some have even reopened at a modified level. What’s important is that you clearly state the safety parameters and changes that employees can expect when they make the return into the office space—which for many is as soon as this week. If desk seating has been rearranged, entrances and exits have been reworked, or they need to anticipate longer wait-times to enter buildings or elevators, those details should be clearly communicated with as much advance notice as possible. As these changes affect those who will be returning to office buildings, remote workers need to be made aware, as well. It gives a sense of community to involve all employees of these big changes so that everyone can be on the same page and can know what to expect—regardless of who is directly or indirectly impacted.
- Consider rehiring decisions.
Many businesses had to reduce their workforce either through layoffs, furloughs and/or salary cuts. As the economy attempts to make a rebound, managers and leaders will need to determine when and if it’s appropriate to rehire some of their workers. Therefore, now is the time to develop a decisive plan on how the rehiring process will look. This means knowing how many people the company can afford to bring back on and where talent is needed most. It’s also important for leaders to realize that these plans may change frequently. The number of people you plan to bring back may change depending on the situation at hand.
- Be honest.
Whether you’re able to bring back furloughed employees or attempt to hire new ones, be honest with the professionals you are interviewing as well as yourself. If it’s not conducive to the business to expand the workforce, hold off until it is. The last thing you would want to do is bring someone back, only to lay them off again. Further, the continuation of honest communication with current employees is essential to minimize confusion and to keep everyone on the same page. Whenever there is change—good or bad—people can jump to conclusions. It’s best to reign in any rumors by setting the stage yourself. This way you can share the message instead of others doing it for you. Additionally, it’s important to keep in contact with furloughed employees. They may be looking for other roles outside of your organization and you will want to know if they are no longer available to bring back. Keeping in touch is a great way to stay connected to the talent pool and make the rehiring process run as smoothly as possible.
- Curb the guilt.
These trying times can easily bring about feelings of guilt with the difficult decisions you have to make. Whether you’re reducing people’s pay, laying people off or reworking teams, it’s natural to feel uncomfortable. Your team members might be having similar feelings of guilt as well. Maybe their close co-worker was furloughed but they weren’t, and they feel bad that they still have a steady income. If some people have not been negatively impacted by the pandemic, they may wonder why. It’s best to try to help mitigate any “survivor’s guilt” that may be out there (including your own). Focus on highlighting the role your current employees can play in helping to bring back those who have been furloughed.
- Find the good.
With so much going on in the world right now, it’s difficult not to feel taxed in some regard. Focusing on the positive rather than the bad whenever possible can help your day-to-day mood on both a personal and professional level. We all know that protecting your mental health is important, especially during this pandemic. An effective way to combat this is to celebrate successes no matter how big or small. This can help boost morale and work-ethic with your teams
What are some other tips for employers to consider as businesses begin to reopen? Share your thoughts in the comments below.