Empowering your Employees Through the Next Normal

Workplaces are now very different places. Business have to be sensitive to the way their employees frame risk as they make decisions on how quickly they open. By looking at your employees through The Five Ways to Happiness at Work, you can empower your people during this time of increased and continued anxiety.

Empowering your Employees Through the Next Normal

With lockdown restrictions easing, some people are starting to return to offices and workplaces. The pandemic has shown many companies that they can function adequately, and in some cases quite successfully, without having their employees in a physical office. In fact, employees are starting to question the “why” of an office. A recent McKinsey & Co survey found that 80% of people enjoyed working from home, while 41% said that they are more productive than before.

The risks of the next normal

Clearly, some people and businesses will be keen to get back to how things were before the outbreak. However, the truth is that the offices now available to us are very different places: reduced occupancy, enforced social distances and increased anxiety about contact with co-workers. Will people want to stand in a crowded elevators anymore? Companies like Facebook, Google and Twitter have announced policies that will allow their employees to work from home until next year, if not indefinitely. And, this past week, Slack joined their ranks as well.

But for companies hoping for a hybrid of working from home and the office, there’s also a reputational risk concern. No one wants to be known as the company that caused a coronavirus spike. One of the greatest thinkers about decision making and risk is the Nobel Prize winner Daniel Kahnemann. He recognised that people tend to fear loses more than they appreciate gains – the core insight in what has become known as prospect theory.

In other words, we tend to focus on the small probability of something bad happening and try to guard against it. These effects are very sensitive to how we frame risks. For instance, a doctor presents a diagnosis and states that there is a 5% mortality rate with a certain procedure. Naturally, we fixate on the 5% rather than identifying with the 95% survival rate.

Businesses have to watch out for these biases as they start to make decisions on how and when they open up. Public-facing industries, such as hospitality and retail, will face different challenges than office-based ones. For the latter, the new status quo has suddenly flipped from office environments to working from home. Across the last three months, businesses have learned that employees can work from home successfully. It is no longer seen as a perk but instead as a viable, productive way of working.

However, the pandemic has left its mark on everyone, and the fear it provokes is still present. Returning to the office, even in limited ways, will require sensitivity to the broad range of emotional states felt by employees and employers everywhere. Some people will be more anxious about returning than others, while the few that have already had the virus may feel invincible.

In a recent (virtual) HBR roundtable, Chuck Robbins, the CEO of Cisco Systems, stated this was the moment for business leaders to show up.

Employees and society want to see who you are as a company. What do you stand for? The answers will have lasting impact as we move beyond this

How to help your employees transition back to life at the office

There will be a learning curve as employees re-adjust to working in office environments. At Friday Pulse, we suggest you prepare for the next normal by adopting an approach that is empathetic, grounded and holistic.

Our Five Ways to Happiness at Work framework identifies five positive behaviours that are the key drivers of positive, productive workplace cultures and can help think through the policies you create. They are:

  • Connect
  • Be Fair
  • Empower
  • Challenge
  • Inspire

Taking these seriously will help ensure that unhappiness and resentment won’t set in.

Here’s how you can help.

Moving slowly to succeed

Friday Pulse tracks the wellbeing of teams. It gives employees a platform to share how they feel, and space for them to share what’s going well and air concerns, while enabling teams to adjust quickly.[newline]
During this pandemic period, we are committed to helping businesses bounce back and improve team morale. That’s why we are continuing to offer companies and teams (50 – 1,000 employees) free access to our people platform for 12 weeks.

The road forward is undoubtedly bumpy for employers and employees alike. It will require serious consideration of organisational priorities. Still, as we make an effort to be flexible, to show kindness and empathy for everyone’s working situations, we will be able to create better wellbeing for everyone.