Shifting Your Business Mindset Amid a Pandemic

Restrictions are eased, businesses are opening and most of the workforce has operated remotely for more than three months. As employees are expected to return to work, the single most asked question will be “what is the plan?” Whoa! Before answering this question, there are a few things to consider.

First, the plan must be detailed and flexible, as requirements for our work environments and the of the needs of employees continue to evolve. This is also a good time to research and benchmark with other businesses for ideas. Unfortunately, there is not a one size fits all transition plan, so please proceed with caution always considering the culture and needs of your organization. Additionally, be sure to include   functions at all levels within the organization in the process. Engaging employees to understand their concerns during this time is vital. This can be accomplished through surveys and conversations and positions you to create a plan that is proactive and inclusive. Though sometimes overlooked, this detail can be the difference between a successful and engaged workforce versus one riddled with uncertainty, low production and potential lawsuits. 

Next, complete a budget forecast. It is in your best interest to be honest with yourself about known cost and potential cost to reopening your businesses.  For example, disinfecting during this time is non-negotiable. Purchasing products and hiring vendors can be costly.  Especially as you increase the number of people in a workspace.  Also, consider the layout of your organization. Are there modifications needed to create barriers between employees? Will workspaces need to be reconfigured to meet the requirement of maintaining 6 feet distance. After assessing, you may find that some employees should to continue to work remotely if your budget cannot accommodate the cost of taking necessary safety precautions at this time. 

Additionally, consider the of mental and emotional health of your employees. Some are grappling with whether to return to work because of fear and high levels of anxiety concerning their health and safety. Offering development opportunities such as emotional intelligence, empathy and performance coaching for managers is suggested.  It can aid with their ability to lead during this period of uncertainty. At the same time, hiring vendors to facilitate these conversations can also add to your expenses. 

Lastly, communication above and beyond normal is important and can demonstrate to employees your genuine concern for their safety. Utilize virtual meeting platforms and emails to relay your plan. Creating a video that demonstrates safety protocols can also be impactful.  Also, be sure to display notices required by OSHA so that employees understand their rights. Remain visible and personally check in with employees and encourage them to ask questions. As mentioned, we are working while creating the playbook.  We are truly all in this together and with patience, empathy, trust and flexibility we can be better than before.  

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Takiyah J. Cunningham, M.S. HRD

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