As we start to find our new normal in the coming months, many people are seeing the pandemic and the future as an opportunity for change. Change the way we live and change the way we work.

Where working from home was still a challenging concept for some employers they have been forced to implement it and now many are embracing it and seeing the benefits.

Where people thought that to be productive you needed to sit in a desk in an office, after a daily commute was the way to go, this pandemic has opened more people’s eyes both employers and employees that people can be just as productive at home.

Some people have also found this challenging and due to their individual circumstances, can’t wait to get back into the workplace.

Everyone is different and each individual has a different perspective on things, a different level of resilience and it isn’t a one size fits all.

the leaders who care about their employees and have a good culture have thrived at this time.

Those who have exercised no empathy or connection are not thriving.  Some are doing their best and constantly having to move the goalposts.  The beauty of this situation is that it is a moving beast and so if you don’t think you have been getting it right, you can shift things, changed things up and make things different.

So what is the way of future when it comes to working.  Well, my chat during our rebound day with Mel Marsden from Comuniti, Katrina Walton from Wellness Designs, and Cheryl Adams from Thinktrek Consulting sharing many insights.

The leaders in organisations who practice empathy, understand the importance of regular and often communication along with guidance to their team is doing well.

People’s health and wellness come first and the leaders, getting things right, know this.  This is what is very different from the financial crisis – there was no literal threat to our health and safety and that certainly changes how we deal with things.

When we spoke about workplaces and those businesses getting it right, we could see that they were implementing good basics such as;

  • Enabling team members to get set up working from home easily and support those with kids at home
  • Putting in good processes around communication and keeping in touch
  • Talking to their team about what they need regularly

As we start to bring our teams back into the workplace we are concentrating on very similar things, communal facilities, social distancing, hygiene protocols, desking arrangements, split shifts – the fundamentals.

We are also hearing, that all of this is changing the energy around the place and as people are heading back to the workplace, there is a different feeling about things.  The workplace will be different, no question.

For the leaders who are having discussions about how to best support their teams while there is still uncertainty and there are still restrictions, are doing a good thing.  We don’t know when the new normal will be consistent, so we need to be comfortable with some of this ambiguity and uncertainty and take it as it comes.   If leaders get a few simple things right like empathy, communication that is clear, concise and regular, and focus in on purpose, the team are much more likely to be motivated, relaxed and energised to go on the journey.

Those organisations who had a strong culture of wellness and a strategy in place are demonstrating that they are further strengthening and investing in that.  Those organisations who don’t have any processes in place are likely to be struggling and should be accessing some support around this to help them on the road out of this.

A survey that Cheryl mentioned, talked about 40% of leaders had not even asked their staff if they were okay during the pandemic. This is crazy!  If you have not asked each individual a few questions around their wellbeing and their motivation, you are truly missing the mark and you need to do it.

We talked about there being two groups as we come out of this;

  1. Those who need support and potentially stay home for longer or in some capacity and;
  2. Those who are thriving and want to get back to the workplace

As leaders and business owners we need to factor in each individual’s needs and concerns, in our decision making.

businessDEPOT asked our team to complete a very simple survey and the questions included; what are your current concerns and what is your ideal working arrangement.

Leaders and Business Owners have the opportunity to rethink how they are going to be using their workspaces and consider changes that can be sustained long term.   The time is now to think about the function that our workplace plays in our organisations with a view to driving collaboration, results and connection.  Not losing sight on the business operations and our strategic goals, along with our culture.

We had to react and get everyone out of the office is rapid speed but it is important to remember that we don’t need to come back to the workplace in the same rapid speed.  Going steady and regrouping regularly to assess things will be so important.  Externally we have restrictions put upon us and therefore as these ease, our circumstances will be changing.  This means we cannot set and forget and it also means that moving quickly may be detrimental also.

Embracing a mantra of ‘working from home and the workplace’ is a new way to consider things.  We don’t work from home or work from the office, it is now a combination and it is very unlikely this is going away any time soon.

Mel Marsden made a really good point in that the workplace has a purpose and we need to consider what the purpose of each workplace is and why we come together in person.

Some teams will thrive if they can come together to have brainstorming sessions, face to face meetings and to connect socially and so considering how you can adapt the workplace to encourage this should be part of the process.

Mel also mentioned, to think of your working from home set up as your office. You go to your office when you are doing deep work and getting things done. So really thinking about the structure of a day and week, will help businesses understand how to utilise the workplace and the working arrangements.

Leaders should not underestimate the importance of wellness, for themselves and for their people.   We chatted with Katrina Walton about stress and she reminded us that financial stress as well as a general level of anxiety around the situation will be affecting people.  People will be concerned about their job security so although we cannot sugar coat things for our teams we can be transparent and as we travel into the next few months and beyond, keeping your team informed about your business situation will help alleviate some of the stresses for them.

I posed the question during our discussion about leaders who are still struggling to embrace the WFH arrangements and still feel they need their team close by.  Chery Adams talked about results and outcome-based working and all of us completely agreed.

Gone are the days where employees are productive, just because they are sitting at their desks.  Leaders and employees need to get on the same page in relation to expectations and outcomes.

The clearer we can get on this, the more control and autonomy an employee will have and better results we will get for them, ourselves as the leaders and the business.  From an HR perspective, this helps dramatically with performance management also.

If you are not in the habit of setting goals and expectations with your team and meeting regularly to discuss how they are going, I strongly suggest you give some consideration to a process around this.

The process can be simple and highly effective.

As we move into this new phase of rebound it’s always good to know where to start.  Consider these;

  1. Have a conversation with each individual and understand their take on things. This will help them feel in control, supported and provide you with the information you need to make informed decisions.
  2. Understand the changing rules and restrictions so that you can manage things well over the next few months.
  3. Look further out, what does it look like in 6 or 12 months time. Are there processes or strategies you need to start to put in place to manage the longer term.

A couple of processes to think about:

  1. Have a flexible working policy and procedure in place.
  2. Nominate a person or a group of people to drive the topics around wellness – both physical and mental and utilise a tool like Wellness Designs Hub to help you.
  3. Consider having a strategy session about your space and what it could look like, check out Mel Marsdens 5 pillars.
  4. Take things slowly, there is no prize for getting all your team back to the workplace at a given date.
  5. Be kind to yourself and others, we are not going to get this right or perfect!

Finally, this is an opportunity to get rid of processes, habits and old thinking patterns that do not serve us and go on a journey of discovery about how we all would like to work in the future.  The future is bright and we are certainly better equipped to handle the next blip that may present itself, so embrace this next little while and set the scene for your business, your team and yourself as the leader, that will enable everyone to love their work and their workplaces more.



Chat to us about our business services, if you would like to reach out for further advice.


Originally authored by Anna Chipperfield.