By Angela Love, director at Active Workplace Solutions

Change. A word that brings relief and fear in equal measure. Right now, change has been thrust upon all of us on an unprecedented scale. However, this current interlude is the perfect time for business leaders to take change even further because there are may be more challenges around the corner.

Business owners have an opportunity right now to do something rare: step outside and look back in. We should take advantage of this moment to strategise and visualise where we take our organisations in both the short term and the long term.

To do this, we must reflect, and this is a healthy thing to do. It may be difficult to accept some things upon doing so, such as failures and where the responsibility lies in some shortcomings, but that is part and parcel of growth, professionally and personally.

This period is also the perfect time to pick up the phone and speak directly to customers, many of whom will also be working from home. Hear their thoughts, their new hopes, their concerns, and their overall emotions. Enhance that personal relationship. Try to understand what’s important to them both now and post-lockdown. By doing this, the relationship will grow stronger when things return to relative normality.

Forming a plan can halve the stress when faced with the unknown. I’m sure that many business owners, will be feeling isolated, especially the less experienced or those without the luxury of other directors to turn to. Use this as the ideal time to review your processes and procedures. What’s been working? What hasn’t? What mistakes can you learn from? It’s time to have some really honest conversations with yourself.

In the meantime…

Regardless of when the lockdown restrictions are eased, the landscape of work has changed. Business owners will need to make sure that they have a proper plan in place for home-working. Maybe it won’t happen in the short term but some employees will want to continue home-working once the lockdown ends. Indeed, if this crisis proves that people are able to do their jobs productively at home, why should they bother coming back to the office at all?

This presents new challenges in managing unseen workers. Despite the distance between remote workers and the business, leaders can still make a huge difference. To ensure unseen workers remain feeling valued, managers should determine what individuals need and what they respond to. Help your remote employees set goals, encourage openness and build trust, but be careful not to encroach or micromanage. Conversely, employees might also feel a greater need to justify and remind you of their existence. Employees working away from the office are likely to fear the worst if communication is poor and messages aren’t clear.

It’s also wise to monitor progress to establish how employees are coping and what adjustments might need to be made. An open channel of communication means staff can express their concerns in a safe and supportive environment.

Hitting the ground running when offices re-open

While many office workers will feel they can continue to do their job from home, there will also be those who are desperate to get back to the office. Children, a lack of resources, little space, and poor technology are all contributing factors to a poor home-working experience. Once the remote working period is over and employees can begin to return to the office, it would be a good idea to review which employees will thrive at home and which need the workplace.

Ultimately, business leaders must use this period to take stock of their workplaces to reconsider what their people need from these spaces and identify the design and management methods that will support these changes. Employers will need their workforce to hit the ground running when they walk back through that office door. For that to happen, we need to accept change, alter our approach to work, and collaborate in new, inventive ways. 

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