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Do You Hear What Your Employees Are Thinking?

By Samantha Mitton, Assoc. IIDA

After months of working remotely, social distancing and worrying about the future, restrictions have slowly started to lift. As workplaces carefully sanitize the office and determine the best course of action for maintaining health, safety, and productivity of their employees, it is important not to overlook the emotional impact it will have on the overall well-being of individuals. Some employees might be excited to return to the office and socialize with their colleagues in person; others might feel apprehensive because they are concerned about the risk of potentially being exposed to the virus.

As companies define their return-to-work plans, leadership needs to understand how to address employee emotions in a supportive manner and promote a culture in which it is okay to not be okay. Companies should encourage leaders to be authentic and empathetic towards their workers and to start reaching out for employee input. During a time of crisis, connecting with employees is critical in order to keep them engaged and productive. Frequent one-on-one conversations will give management a better grasp on how employees are feeling and what barriers stand in their way when returning to work. Many companies are taking it a step further and conducting surveys with their employees to collect feedback in regards to company culture, leadership and overall strategy. This feedback and data will help guide employers and managers toward an improved working experience. Additionally, this will help leadership decide what tools and resources employees require to be successful and feel safe in the workplace.

It is important for organizations to remain flexible during this time. Not everyone will feel comfortable returning to the office and providing the option to continue to work from home can help control their concern. With so much uncertainty and anxiety driving our daily lives, companies need to be open to change. Be transparent with your return planning process and explain to employees beforehand that the company has thought everything through to create a calm and safe work environment. Explain to employees the reasoning behind these adjustments. Provide them a vision of what changes could occur in the next week, month or year.

During this time, it is key to not lose sight of your organization’s cultural values. Rather, channel them into positive strategies and actions that will promote the well-being of your employees and revamp your workplace culture long-term.

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