• Patrick Jones - Sr. Project Analyst

What Next? Tips for Getting Teams Back to Work Post-Quarantine

Updated: Jun 3

After months of lockdown and remote work caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, many offices are slowly opening back up as the first trickle of employees returns to the workplace. While this brings a sigh of relief to many, it may be a source of anxiety and uncertainty for others. Beyond debates over the merits and risks of opening back up there is a consensus that the impact of the pandemic is far from over and will carry over to office life. With this new transition comes new challenges and new opportunities for employee engagement.


RETURNING TO A POST-QUARANTINE WORKPLACE


Managers and leaders will need to be mindful that their staff will not be returning to the same work environment they left. The weeks and months of isolation, stress, and anxiety will have undoubtedly taken a toll on employees. And in some workplaces, not all employees may be coming back. This will understandably lead to a dip in morale.


There will also be changes to the physical workspaces employees use and how they interact with each other. To maintain physical spacing it may be necessary to create alternating shifts or days in the office for different teams. And even with effective use of video conferencing tools like Zoom, natural interactions and short Q&A sessions next to a water cooler or break room will inevitably be disrupted.


These changes will influence team and company cultures and may have far reaching consequences on employee performance. Maintaining and promoting employee engagement will be an integral part of successfully managing teams post-quarantine.


HELPING YOUR TEAM GET BACK ON TRACK


Managing this transition and the challenges of returning to work will be a tall order for any manager or team leader. These tips will help lay the foundation for a team to successfully build its way up to previous performance levels and beyond:


Start Back Slow: Just being back together in the office should be treated as a success and an important milestone. Make a point to celebrate this and allow staff time to settle into new routines before ramping things back up.

Sensitize Leaders to Stress: Returning employees could be dealing with a myriad of concerns from health and safety to family finances. Those more closely affected by Covid-19 may have experienced serious trauma recently. Prepare team leaders to deal sensitively with staff who are struggling.

Communicate Safety as a Priority: With so many changes being implemented, employee buy-in will be the key to success. Leaders need to emphasize that changes are for the health and safety of staff and be sure this message accompanies all actions taken.

Model Physical Distancing: Workspaces will have to be relocated, new sanitation processes introduced, and habits changed. But employees may get overly comfortable and lose focus if their managers do not proactively model this behaviour and emphasize its importance.

Managing Expectations: Some staff may prefer remote work while some managers may be eager to get back to ‘normal’ in the office. Where flex hours and remote work are feasible, they will no longer be a perk but a necessity. Nonetheless, expectations about work schedules need to be clearly established to keep teams running smoothly.

Check-In: Most importantly, leaders need to make time to talk one-on-one specifically about how staff are feeling and any concerns they may have. Routine pulse surveys will also help gain insight into issues staff are not comfortable sharing in conversation.



A UNIQUE EMPLOYEE ENGAGEMENT OPPORTUNITY


A crisis can reveal a lot about a team, both good and bad. While the strain on employee connections and morale appears on the surface as a purely negative impact it also places a renewed focus on team culture. This presents an opportunity for reshaping company culture post-pandemic and a unique chance for leaders to connect with their teams. Successful companies will be those that recognize this as a pivotal moment that is part of a long-term change.


Rather than simply weathering the storm until the pandemic passes, companies can use this as an opportunity to build a thriving work culture; one with stronger collaboration, better feedback mechanisms, and more efficient routines. This new work culture will ultimately reap an abundance of both tangible and intangible rewards - improved employee engagement, healthier, more robust organizations as well as a surge in productivity, the very things that most companies were working towards before everyone went home.


It’s time to get to work.



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