Safe return to work? Leadership priority: to build Trust… and keep people safe!

The current news is all about returning to the workplace. Once we are given the go-ahead for our industry sector how should we address all the concerns around safety for our staff, visitors and members of the public who may come into our premises?

There is a lack of specific government guidance and many business leaders are already in the process of returning and developing their own best practice after conferring with peers in similar leadership roles.

First Steps

The following are a few ideas that may help you if you are currently considering your next steps.

a) Communicate frequently with your people. Many have found that a regular video update, talking for about 3 minutes is a great way to maintain engagement and build confidence.
The keys to this are to keep it simple and be authentic and remember to say thank you!

b) Issue a survey to all staff who may be furloughed or working from home asking how they feel about what has happened and how they have been treated?

Ask them what their greatest concerns are about returning to work?

You may find that adapting these questions to be more specific to your business and team is not only helpful for those working and those on furlough but also provides you with more valuable insight and feedback to enable effective decision-making going forward.

c) Many leaders have used the Gallup 12 questions as a basic guide for driving engagement. This is a great way to monitor engagement levels on an ongoing basis and may be useful as part of your new process after returning to the new normal of work. You can download the 12 Gallup questions here.

Preparing for the return to work

How to prepare for the return to the work environment is a huge issue. Here are 21 questions, originally published by People Puzzles, that you may find helpful to consider in your planning… I suggest starting with question 21

1. What turnover levels do we need to achieve to determine at what point should we bring back all / some of our employees?
2. What different / additional hygiene and PPE procedures and practices do we need to put in place before people return to work?
3. How will we comply with social distancing guidelines in the office / on the shop floor?
4. Are there roles we no longer need either on a temporary or permanent basis?
5. If I need to make employees redundant, should I start the process whilst they are on furlough and, if so, how do I consult with them remotely?
6. How do I fairly select who returns first, or at all?
7. What if employees are anxious about returning to work and ask to stay on furlough or working from home?
8. What do I do if I need to extend the furlough period for some employees beyond the end of the Job Retention Scheme?
9. What if members of the team ask to continue working from home on a permanent basis?
10. How much notice is it reasonable to give to bring an employee back who is either working from home or on furlough?
11. Do I have a number of people who, having worked throughout this crisis, will be desperate for some time off when we get through this?
12. How do I manage holiday requests and holiday levels going into the second half of 2020 and beyond?
13. How do I establish employee needs and circumstances in order to take these into account?
14. How do I deal with employees who are classed as ”vulnerable” or live with someone who is “vulnerable” and may need to stay away from work for a longer period, i.e. after the end of the furlough period?
15. Are there issues about bringing back employees with childcare responsibilities where their support facilities such as schools or nurseries are not yet open?
16. What efficiencies and better ways of working have we identified that we want to use now and in the future?
17. What communication channels have worked best for us during the crisis and what do we intend to use going forward?
18. How can we recognise those individuals who have made a great contribution to the business and/or for their social contribution in raising colleague morale?
19. What new skills do we need to develop internally if the business is adapting and diversifying?
20. Are there new roles we need to recruit for / retrain existing employees for?
21. What would we do differently if a second wave occurs and a further lockdown happened in the next 12 months?
We have just heard that the furlough scheme will be extended another 4 months to October, and employers will begin to bear some of the costs from August onwards.

There are many decisions to be made; how you make these decisions and how effectively you communicate them is a major test of your leadership skill. Having someone to talk through your plans and to help guide your thinking may be of great value to you at this time.

Being part of a trusted peer network has never been so relevant and having the guidance of someone who is solely interested in your success with no other agenda may also be something you are looking for, if so please get in touch.

Openness < Control < Inclusion

I will end with some guidance for these times of crisis: the 3 levers you have to work with to build trust and engagement are always OPENNESS < CONTROL < INCLUSION

During these special times you should dial up the level of openness, so that everyone feels you are communicating with honesty and authenticity.

Both Control and Inclusion should be maintained at a medium level, however, as it is not appropriate to engage everyone in every critical business decision and you need to also demonstrate that you are effectively making decisions and not just delegating your responsibility to group thinking.

Your people are looking to you to lead and they will remember how you performed at these moments of truth.

Their safety is in your hands and so is the survival of your business and this is an awesome responsibility!

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