What is your organization’s change management plan after COVID-19?
You’ve certainly thought about it, but if you haven’t, here are a few questions and considerations you’ll want to keep in mind:
Employees will have a mix of emotions on the idea of going back to the office. Some will be dying to get back and start interacting with real people again. Others have now gotten used to working from home. They have enjoyed the new flexibility and lack of commute, and they may be convinced that they can work as productively remotely as they did from the office. On top of that, they may be squeamish about coming into work again and potentially exposing themselves to the virus, no matter how much cases have “gone down.” How will you manage differing employee expectations?
Best Practice: As a leader, your best bet in this situation, at least in the beginning, is to allow employees the flexibility to work in the manner they feel most comfortable. If you have staff who feel strongly against coming into the office, they should not be forced to do so – at least not in the beginning.
Providing PPE and Enforcing Use
What kinds of protections and policies will you put in place to reduce chances of infection and keep employees safe? Will you provide masks to all employees and require they wear them at all times while in the office? What about gloves, hand sanitizer, Lysol, etc? How will you enforce these changes? How will you change the workplace setup to maintain greater distance between employees?
Best Practice: Providing necessary PPE and enforcing strict policies around hygiene and social distancing will be important in the workplace. However, be careful to not turn into the PPE police. It is possible that someone might slip up here and there, since this will be a big change from the norm. It is important to be understanding, while also making them aware of the slip-up and its possible negative impact on the workplace.
New Policies on Sick Leave
What will be your policy on employees or staff who appear to have symptoms? Will they be asked to go home? Will they be compensated anyway?
Best Practice: Many employees with symptoms will try to wait it out from fear of losing pay, causing a hazard to the workplace. Make sure that employees know that if they do need to go home due to symptoms, they will be compensated for those days. Now that COVID-19 testing is becoming more ubiquitous, you may consider having an onsite testing capability for staff who are feeling symptoms. Rather than sending any and everyone home who has a cough, a testing hub is a fair way of discerning if someone actually needs to be sent home.
Communications and Training
How will you communicate and train employees on the changes that will be put in place? How will you educate them on new policies and practices that will need to be observed? And how will you enforce these changes?
Best Practice: You can do so using plentiful signage around the workplace as reminders. Prior to the workplace re-opening, you will also want to deliver executive communications detailing the new policies. Finally, ask employees to complete a mandatory online training designed for COVID-19 precautions. The more engaging the training is, the better. Despite the dry subject matter, try to develop a training that is humorous and engaging for employees to complete, which will strengthen sentiments for coming back into the office.
Developing an Organizational Culture of Interdependence
How will you manage conflicts that might take place between employees with different health and hygiene practices? How will you maintain a positive and “safe” culture amidst the new fear and guardedness many employees may be feeling?
Best Practice: Most important for your workplace change management plan will be building a culture, not of fear, but of collaboration. This means fostering a greater sense of care and concern for one another as you start transitioning back to normal. It should be clearer than ever the interdependence of your organization and how each individual impacts others. There is no better time than now to create this awareness in your workforce, which will serve your organization as a whole tremendously going forward.