Stress Management, Well-being and Self-Care

Road that says next steps

Embrace Uncertainty in Your Reopening Plans

by James Porter July 06, 2021

Todays article is written by Lynn Thomas. A former tax attorney at Arthur Andersen, Lynn Thomas brings the same rigor to her work now as an employee and client retention consultant. With more than 30 years’ experience, she uncovers why clients / employees come, stay, leave, refer, and cross-buy. Her unique, fully customized approach includes measurable and actionable steps toward cultivating a powerful, profitable, and relationship-centric company. Learn more about Lynn and Thomas Consulting, here.
COVID has forever changed the way we view and approach work. We are not going “back to normal” – we are moving on to something new.
Consider these startling statistics:
For business leaders that want to retain their best employees while maximizing their satisfaction and productivity, these COVID-induced changes in attitude cannot be ignored. Post-COVID, it’s not going to be about coping — it will be about thriving. Employees want more control, more flexibility, and more autonomy in how, when, and where they work.
It’s important to keep in mind, too, that we have all been participating in a huge social experiment. Nobody knows what the future will look like, but as some employees inevitably begin returning to the office at least some of the time, companies that “reopen” well will be the most successful.
Here are some thoughts on how to be among them…
Don’t Be Afraid to Take Action
Doing nothing at this point is a bad idea. A “wait-and-see” approach will appear indecisive and suggest that you lack confidence in your own plans. Further delays will only add to your employees’ anxiety, stress, and burnout, ultimately leading to lost productivity and increased resignations.
And besides, you’ve been hearing from clients and talking to employees all along – there is nothing that you will know in a few months that you don’t know now. Use that information to make a decision for a month or two based on your understanding of how best to reopen.
For example, one of my clients has decided that for the next two months, the Sales Team will come into the office (at the same time) two days a week, while the rest of the Teams will come in for one. Once each week, the company will pay for a shared meal among team members.
Another client has told employees that for now, it is up to them, individually, to decide how, when, and if they return.
So, which approach is best? Neither. These are just first steps; they will undoubtedly evolve. But like digging the foundation of a new house, what matters is getting started, not endlessly debating at which end to remove the first shovelful of dirt.
Continue the Conversation
As you reopen, it is vital to keep talking, one-on-one, with employees and top clients, to understand how well things are proceeding. Ask specific questions.
For employees, you might ask: If you could change one thing about how the reopening has gone, what would that be? How can we better support you in your work?
For top clients, you might ask: What do you love about what we do? What drives you crazy? Is there anything missing, wrong, different, post-COVID that you are not getting in working with us?
The goal is to maintain an up-to-date and ongoing understanding about how the reopening is shaping up, both internally and externally.
As you receive more feedback from employees and top clients, and as the world continues to evolve, change will be necessary. Go into these next several months with that assumption — stay flexible and keep listening.
Above all, do whatever you can to let employees decide the circumstances under which they return (if at all) to in-office work. One size does not fit all and no two people have had the same experience and response to working from home.
But if we have learned anything from this, it’s that given the freedom and flexibility, employees have shown an ability to adapt. If the work is getting done and your clients are happy, there is no need to force one solution across the board.
Final Thoughts
The desire to work remotely at least some of the time cuts across age, education, gender, earnings, and family situations. That’s the future. Fighting it will only result in your best and brightest employees walking out the door.
This phased-in approach allows for experimentation with various options. Start, learn, evaluate… pivot! That’s where the world is going; it makes good business sense to go there, too.

James Porter
James Porter