With Australia slowly returning to normal following the gradual easing of lockdown measures, the attention of many business leaders is on the return to the office.
Safety and compliance will be the primary focus, but maintaining productivity should also be near the top of the return-to-work checklist.
Months in lockdown, dominated by at-home video meetings, has changed the way people work.
Everything has been funnelled through a webcam, tightly scheduled and timed using Zoom, and this has turned work into a controlled switch-on-switch-off environment.
As teams make their way back into workplaces, it is essential to remember that while the offices, hotdesks and cubicles employees left 18 months ago have not changed, how individuals work and behave will be very different.
And while the return of water cooler chats and coffee runs will be welcome, they could also disrupt the level of productivity businesses have become used to.
The reality is that employees will be shifting from a highly-productive, almost binary work-from-home environment to one full of interaction and distraction.
Additionally, teams will be split between home and office, which will impact productivity as organisations work out how to operate and communicate in this new hybrid environment.
Businesses will need to leverage software to aid efficiency and compliance, but equally important will be to focus on culture to manage this transition in a way that does not impact but improves productivity.
Communicate With Your Team
With so many challenges presented by the pandemic and this new work model, no employer should assume their staff are up-to-speed with the latest strategy, appointment or account win.
They will need to double down on communication to ensure everyone is on the same page and no one is left behind, whether at home or in the office.
After many months of self-isolating, employees will want to know what’s been going on with the business. Only by working together as a team can staff be expected to work productively for a company.
Even a small change like adopting a new piece of software could prove to be a big challenge. Staff will now need time to speed, which will only be possible if an effective communication channel is in place.
There will be a honeymoon period as employees return to the workplace, but this could be short-lived if economic uncertainty sets in as Australia finds its feet. In this environment, business leaders must be completely open and transparent with their staff.
They will need to share more than they did pre-pandemic – with the understanding that staff will want to know the nitty-gritty of how their place of work is impacted.
Whether it be a decline in revenue or roles changing, the more honest an employer is with their staff, the more motivated their employees will be to work harder.
Whether employers like it or not – sometimes personal life has to take priority overwork. This is something the pandemic has changed forever – as people worked from home surrounded by their spouses and kids.
Even for the most private people, the lines between home and work are now permanently blurred. And the staff are more open to sharing aspects of their personal lives.
Leaders need to set an example for their workers, listening to their needs and allowing them to work in a way they feel comfortable with. If an employee needs to work from home two days a week to fit their child’s nursery opening times, for example, they should be allowed to.
Chances are, they will work harder and faster as a way of thanking their employer for listening and allowing them to work around their personal life.
It all comes down to ensuring staff feel comfortable both physically and mentally. If they don’t, their focus won’t be on the task at hand, and their productivity will suffer as a result.
By implementing an open and honest office culture, which complements the new hybrid work model and accepts the new ways people want to work, staff will soon feel a lot more motivated, and in turn, productivity will rise.