It's incredible to think that we're nearly at the end of 2020 and that the pandemic that has defined the year is continuing to shape our work, our social lives, how we eat, shop and travel.
Knowing that we are (hopefully!) at the tail end of this thing is inciting a level of positivity not experienced in some months. However, there are many people also feeling anxious or tentative about returning to their old lives, which presents some key HR challenges for employers in running a COVID normal business.
So what does the road ahead look like for businesses? How can we ensure that we move forward and thrive into COVID normal and beyond? Many things need to be done, and smart leaders will be carving out time to consciously plan for this brand new chapter in not only their lives but that of their team.
I see there being 7 key determining factors which will define the success that businesses have when managing the year ahead.
1. Accept that COVID normal will be different
It doesn't pay to bury your head in the sand. Being in denial about what is to come will not serve you, your business or your people. COVID normal is going to be far from normal, and we all need to accept that. We can't go back to how things were, not now, probably not next year, and maybe not ever. And that is ok. It can even present many benefits if we look for the positives.
2. Reframe your perspective
Reframing is such a useful tool to have up your sleeve when times are difficult. When we think about a situation differently, it allows us to move our perspective from "issue" to "opportunity". To regularly practise reframing takes a concerted effort, but one that allows for a tremendous reward.
3. A COVID Safe plan is not optional
COVID Safe plans need to be thought about early to ensure that when the time is right, people can return to workplaces safely. Many elements need to be thought through, such as the number of employees you can have in your space, how you manage external visitors, where you will hold meetings, hygiene measures, tracking visitors, and most importantly - training your staff on the new protocols. These things cannot be done once people are back; they need to be finalised and communicated well in advance.
4. Build meaningful connections
Connection is such an important part of being human. We have all seen how things go when connection is removed from our lives. There has been a lot of re-assessing going on through the lockdown. People have realised what is important in life. Those who love their job feel grateful for that, those who have not been happy will do something about it. Ensuring that you are putting your employees front and centre, that you are connecting with them and prioritising their fulfilment at work (particularly for your stars) will ensure that you don’t have regretful departures into 2021.
5. Eradicate old methods
For businesses who have in the past had issues trusting their employees, the pandemic has forced an acceptance of not having control over their every move. Trusting employees to work their hours and do their jobs well (which is what you employed them to do!) not only needs to be accepted, but embraced. There is no need to register what time people clock on or off or worry that they are taking a longer break or even if they are doing personal things on work time – don’t focus on this. Punitive, controlling management methods are destructive. Assume your employees are doing their best unless proven otherwise and focus on results rather than what hours they are putting in.
6. Innovate and collaborate
No, it’s not a 90’s rap song! I am referring to sophisticated tools to bring teams together in a modern way, inline with COVID normal ways of working. This will be critical to the transition and will distinguish those who have happy, engaged productive employees from those whose employees feel disconnected and isolated. Knowing what tools are out there and carefully defining your business requirements to ensure the best-fit solutions will be important.
7. Health and wellbeing
For many, health and wellbeing used to be an afterthought; an obligatory yoga class or discounted gym membership may have been the extent of it. That won’t cut it as we head into COVID normal. Unfortunately, we will be starting from a low base when it comes to the psychological wellbeing of our employees as there will be very few people who emerge from this without some form of emotional or psychological damage. Make health and wellbeing a priority. Ensure you have the resources to support your teams, be flexible and actively promote positive mental health through your workplace.
The next step...
Business continuity and productivity will occur in COVID normal, for those businesses willing to consciously lead, take risks and push for changes that will ultimately make your business better.
We all know that our COVID normal world will be vastly different and that our attitudes, approaches and work practices will be irrevocably changed. But if we see this as an opportunity rather than something to fear, then we will move into this next uncertain chapter with hope, optimism and resilience. This will not only allow you to manage your teams better and make the necessary decisions, but it will also filter to your people, and the pay-off will be great.