The pandemic brought about many changes and challenges to individuals and organizations alike, but we adapted to our “new normal.” We learned to work remotely, social distance, and socialize virtually.
Now, as we begin to consider a post-pandemic world, we must adapt again. People will be changing jobs, adapting to hybrid workforces, and finding their groove in our “next normal.”
Forward-thinking People Ops teams should consider how these changes may affect team member engagement and collaboration, and what they can do to support a smooth transition to post-pandemic work.
Show some empathy
The pandemic has likely led to many unexpected changes for your team members. Some may have lost family members and friends to the novel coronavirus. Some may have long COVID. Some have lost childcare, perhaps long-term as one-third of child care centers never reopened. Many households have seen job or wage loss. Mental health has declined, with about 4 in 10 reporting symptoms of anxiety or depressive disorder, up from one in ten adults who reported these symptoms pre-COVID. The pandemic has created a lot of challenges for people, in a lot of different ways.
Stay in tune with your team members to learn how you can best support them. This may be different for each person; do what you can to lighten their burden. Taking care of your team will naturally lead to higher engagement, and removing personal obstacles can help your team members be more present to collaborate at work.
Offer flex work
Many workers have become accustomed to remote work and, possibly, flex hours during the pandemic. This was necessary to ensure team member safety and maintain some semblance of work-life balance as people juggled responsibilities. Post-pandemic, it’s a perk many workers would like to continue to enjoy.
Rather than going back to 9-to-5, office-based work, continue offering flex work to your team members. This may include remote work opportunities, flexible schedules, job sharing, or compressed workweeks. Flex work can lead to happier team members who are more likely to go above and beyond in their work because they’re not falling behind in other areas of their lives.
Just make sure you’re providing the right technologies and tools to enable asynchronous collaboration between team members. For instance, project management software can help your team members see team progress on projects and understand their own roles.
Provide opportunities for development
In what’s been dubbed “The Great Resignation,” one in four workers is considering quitting their jobs after the threat of the pandemic subsides. (Other polls suggest upwards of 65 percent of workers may be looking for new jobs.) Career growth and compensation are frequently cited among the top reasons for turnover—and employee development can address both, while also improving engagement.
Take the time to discuss career goals and create professional development plans with your team members. A learning management system can help support their development, while a performance management system can help your team stay on top of goals, feedback, and progress.
Provide recognition, raises, and internal promotions when they’re deserved—and when you’re able—as these can be powerful contributors to healthy employee engagement.
Prioritize remote inclusion
Remote work has grown by leaps and bounds during the pandemic, and many organizations plan to embrace a hybrid workforce model long-term. If that’s the case at your organization, make it a point to prioritize remote inclusion.
Remote or hybrid team members can inadvertently be left out of meetings, be overlooked for raises and promotions, and generally feel like second-class citizens. All of this can negatively affect engagement and collaboration.
There are many things you can do to help remote or hybrid employees feel more included.
For example, outfit your conference rooms with cameras, microphones, and screens that allow office-based and remote team members to see and hear one another. Some companies are even taking a remote-first approach to meetings, in which everyone calls in from their computers. Survey your remote, hybrid, and office-based team members to learn other ways you might improve, and track metrics by each group to understand whether promotions, raises, and feedback are offered equitably.
The past 18 months have been rife with changes, and we’re all eagerly anticipating the next normal. Take the time to consider how you can create a smoother transition for your team. Focusing on areas like engagement and collaboration can help you build a stronger workforce that’s more resilient to future challenges and more attentive to future opportunities.