Recently, I was asked about the challenges leaders will face when the COVID-19 pandemic subsides, workplaces reopen and people begin to return to work. These times will require exceptional leadership as business leaders will be faced with a unique set of challenges, the likes of which they’ve never faced.
Leading people through the changes of the COVID-19 pandemic can be broken up into two categories: caring for the people and learning from our experiences. Here are a few of those challenges you’ll face:
1. Taking Care of the People
Your employees will want to be assured they are safe in the reopened workplace. Is there physical evidence their work environment is safe? Communicating the vision for this new work environment will be particularly important. In addition, employees who have just spent months sheltered-in-place with their loved ones may experience anxiety during the initial period after returning to work. Leaders should be sensitive to this. Remain visible and continually monitor the mental health of your folks through observation and frequent “check-ins.”
In addition, employees who have just spent months sheltered-in-place with their loved ones may experience anxiety during the initial period after returning to work. Leaders should be sensitive to this.
2. Re-Socializing the Workplace
When your employees return to work, their first tendency will be to gather at the coffee pot to share “COVID war stories.” This “re-socializing” will be important for restoring teamwork in the workplace but should be carefully managed. Teams were physically yanked apart when businesses shut down. Keeping in contact through technology was the best substitute, given the circumstance; however, technology could not replace the physical interaction of people who normally discussed business across a desk, over a cup of coffee, or in a conference room setting. Reestablishing these relationships will be vitally important!
3. Minimizing Distractions
While re-socializing the workplace is important, too much socializing can lead to distracted workers… setting them up for error. Re-socializing must be done in a manner that minimizes unnecessary distractions. Provide controlled opportunities for socializing that breeds teamwork, reducing the chances it will lead to performance issues. In addition, refresh their knowledge of human performance tools such as pre-job briefs, self-checking, and peer-checking to further reduce the likelihood for error.
Strong leadership is key to re-establishing a safe post-COVID workplace for your team. Be sure to prioritize your people during this transition period.