Posted August 2, 2021
Employers and employees face another new normal. As businesses open up after the pandemic, many ask remote employees to work full-time from the office or on a hybrid basis. The hybrid schedule asks employees to work two or three days in the office and the other days in a remote location. No matter the option, many employees are struggling to adapt. Here are six ways employers can help employees adjust to the post-pandemic world.
Adopt a people-first strategy
The new work normal is filled with uncertainty. After months of talking with co-workers online, many employees are hesitant to start working with them face-to-face. Some may be unsure how to reconnect with team members. Others wonder if it’s safe and what their employer will do to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Employees also may dread putting aside their casual attire of T-shirt and sweats or shorts for clothes appropriate for the office.
Implementing a “people-first” strategy will help employees adjust to the post-pandemic world. Don’t expect employees to resume in-office operations as though nothing had happened. Employers can show they care about workers by acknowledging their feelings. Express appreciation for the many contributions employees bring to the business. If following a hybrid schedule, build the team by having employees in all locations do things together.
Review benefits and perks to ensure you’re addressing employees’ concerns. This includes their needs related to schedule flexibility, caregiver responsibilities, well-being, health and safety. Talk with employees, so you understand their issues. Some employees may feel that by returning to work, they are sacrificing personal safety. Others with caregiving responsibilities may need a flexible schedule. Explain current work and scheduling policies, and help workers integrate their work and life responsibilities.
Bottom line, employees want to work for an employer who cares about them. Putting workers first goes a long way in keeping them at work and engaged with your business.
In addition to being nervous about returning to work, employees may bring along some habits they’ve adopted during the pandemic. Openly discuss problems, habits and possible addictions. Acknowledge the discomfort and stress they may be feeling. Give workers time to adjust to their new normal.
Offer benefits that support well-being
Nearly 89% of employees surveyed want a company culture that supports their well-being, specifically their mental, physical and financial needs.
Living through the pandemic caused employees extreme stress, loneliness, burnout and damaged relationships. Employees working remotely have connected with co-workers through online meetings, but many spent the rest of their workday in isolation. Some workers worry that when they have to work together with other team members in person, they won’t know how to act. They’ve forgotten the art of small talk and feel uncomfortable being with others outside of their family or friend group. Help employees reconnect by offering well-being programs that focus on communications and interpersonal relationships. Some workers also may appreciate a counseling service, such as an Employee Assistance Program (EAP), or fun activities outside the office, to help them deal with stress.
Employees also are worried about finances. Due to the pandemic, nearly 60% of Americans say their income has been negatively affected. About 56% of Americans live paycheck to paycheck. If they have unexpected bills, such as a medical or dental procedure, they aren’t sure how to cover the expense.
Many employees find the burden of debt and financial responsibilities overwhelming. It’s tough for workers with student loan debts, too. About 64% of those with student loans owe more than $20,000. About 31% owe more than $50,000. For these employees, businesses can offer a student loan benefit to help them with student loan payments.
Maintain open communication
Business leaders should communicate frequently and clearly with employees. Share thoughts and ideas for reigniting business after the pandemic. Talk about the frustrations of pandemic fatigue, impact on the company and missed experiences.
Outline goals and objectives for work operations and business growth. Be transparent, honestly sharing challenges and sales projections. Encourage employees to ask questions and offer ideas. Inviting workers to be part of the solution gets them engaged and reconnected to the business. Remind employees that the new normal has unchartered waters with many opportunities to shape and color the future.
One of the things employees have missed are opportunities to learn new skills and develop knowledge in different areas. Educate employees about what the business needs to be competitive in the post-pandemic world, including necessary skillsets for future growth. Companies that provide these learning experiences for employees quickly can adapt to market adjustments and better serve customers’ needs.
Organize training experiences to help employees acquire new information to better understand business products and customer needs. For example, teach employees communication skills for writing good emails and expressing ideas when meeting with customers. Also, companies today need workers who have good problem-solving skills.
Expect the best of employees. During the pandemic, employees worked independently, often making difficult decisions to meet project deadlines. As employees return for in-person work or hybrid schedules, employers may think they need a more hands-on approach to work. But avoid the temptation. Provide the education and training workers need and trust them to make the right decisions. Encourage employees to participate in making decisions and finding solutions to improve products, sales communication and customer relationships.