Business leaders are now planning their return to work policies keeping employee safety and health top of mind as economies reopen. On the other hand, according to a recent survey commissioned by Built for Teams, findings show that there will be a shift in staffing and organization planning. The survey also pointed out that 25% of employees are now considering a job change, all of which signifies that business leaders have to be well-equipped for any trickle down effect in order to ensure business continuity.
Key Findings from the Survey:
50 percent of respondents say they are extremely anxious or have heightened concerns about going back to a shared workspace.
25 percent are considering other employment options.
Additional responses indicate there is a high level of anxiety and lack of job security among employees.
Nearly 20 percent feel very or somewhat insecure with their job.
30 percent are anxious about separating from housemates, family, and pets.
Nearly half feel that lack of visibility and physical interaction with their boss impedes rewards and recognition for work performance.
We spoke with Built for Teams CEO, Brett Derricott who shared tips on what workforce strategy can help businesses during this time.
Given the findings from the survey, what are your top suggestions for businesses, what should they do to protect themselves from productivity issues as employees think of returning to office models while at the same time several are considering a job change?
Because COVID-19 has left many employees feeling either uncertain about their job security or interested in changing jobs entirely, we recommend companies do the following:
- Identify key employees whose departure would be significantly harmful to the company.
- Find ways to reassure those employees about their job security and discover how working from home has positively or negatively affected those employees. They may assume they won’t have a choice other than to return to the office full time. As a result, they may start looking for a more flexible job elsewhere. If possible, offer to keep the positive aspects they’ve experienced from working remotely. Offering flexibility to the key employees you wish to keep will give them reason to stay.
- Create a succession plan today for all key positions. If a person critical to the team decides to leave, you’re not caught off guard without a plan. Take inventory of possible replacements to fill each vacancy and begin investing in developing those candidates so they are as prepared as possible to succeed.
- Using your organizational chart software, create “what-if scenarios” to map out possible changes to your organization. Explore both growth and reduction scenarios to help you prepare for changes that may be coming. No one can predict the future, but you can prepare.
- Interview now. Even if the position isn’t available, now is a good time to begin relationships with star players. As hiring ramps up, the best talent will get scooped up the quickest.
Throughout the period of these pandemic-induced lockdowns, what have been your biggest observations and thoughts on the overall HR practices that companies have implemented (or tried to), where have you seen some of the biggest lags?
The increased level of uncertainty and anxiety that is generally felt among the workforce is an indicator that companies aren’t communicating with their employees either effectively or frequently enough. Most employees don’t seem to have an understanding about the health of their company now, or about future plans. Additionally, employees say they are unsure if their work performance is being recognized and valued since the natural cues that happen during in-person interactions with supervisors are absent. Frequent, candid, and transparent communication with employees will reduce anxiety, reassure employees of the value they bring, and give employees a better sense for what the future might hold.
Company leaders aren’t likely to be able to forecast the outcome of the pandemic, but rather than staying silent about the unknowns, they can hold candid conversations with employees about the risks the company faces, how they are actively working to mitigate those risks, and what might happen if the market takes a significant downturn. Employees appreciate being treated as intelligent partners in the process. Open and honest communication helps them feel that way.
As companies start putting their back to office strategies in place, what are some of the employee protection measures you’d like to caution them to take?
So much is still unknown about how this coronavirus is transmitted, resulting in varying degrees of anxiety around possible risks of returning to an office environment. Some employees will feel completely comfortable while others will be incredibly anxious. While all companies should follow the standard advice regarding distancing and sanitization of office environments, it is equally important to take into account the mental and emotional well-being of employees. Until a vaccine or adequate therapeutics are in place, I advise companies to give employees the freedom to determine when they are most comfortable being in the office. While recognizing this is not possible for all organizations, allowing employees to return to the office when they feel safe sends a strong signal that the company cares about their employees’ health and well-being. This also provides a good opportunity to gather employee feedback. Just last week, we did this very thing.
We held a company meeting where we discussed company status, and then we brainstormed and asked for employee input. We expressed our desire to keep everyone safe and healthy, and also maintain flexibility. We want to recognize and keep the positive aspects of remote work they’ve experienced, while also making sure we’re not giving up too much at the expense of our company culture. The meeting was well received. Several employees told us afterwards how much they appreciated the session. In particular, they appreciated hearing what their fellow employees were experiencing. The open discussion proved to be useful and it reassured them that we have no intention to take away those things that are working well.
Any other last tips / thoughts for our readers given that the Covid-19 threat is still pretty much existent? What should the workforce keep in mind as they try to balance their own safety and productivity at work during this time?
While companies are doing all they can to protect and support their employees, those employees can also help manage their own fears by staying informed. Studying the scientific literature about how this coronavirus spreads will arm everyone with facts that can help them know how to protect themselves and others.
We also encourage employees to engage with one another. In the absence of the natural ways in which employees interact and get to know one another over lunch or just in the hallway, a more deliberate effort to connect will go a long way in keeping employees engaged and feeling that they are part of a team. When the time comes that employees slowly return to work, it may be helpful to communicate about which days people will be in the office so that safe, face-to-face collaboration can once again resume. It can’t be overstated: many employees stay because they love their coworkers. Individuals should put forth effort to connect, and the company leadership should also seek creative ways to provide opportunities for employees to stay connected.