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Navigating Post COVID-19 Work Environments

“It is love, has been love, will always be love that makes the biggest difference in our world.” – Scott Stabile I think about the challenges employers face as we embark on the journey of returning Post COVID-19. As leaders, this new normal may require revisiting our values and work ethics. I believe it’s going to be a new era of love-driven leadership that protects employees, redefines corporate visions and values, and addresses the mind and heart of both personnel and clientele. Preparing to Return Working with Who you Have In a previous article, I mentioned a need to consider the fact that upon returning to work, we will not be doing business as usual. Whether we realize it or not, we have all been changed to some degree by our experience with COVID-19. Employers are discovering their employees are dealing with different levels of prolonged stress and its impact emotionally and physically. Some, if not most of our people, will need some time and help to recover from their experiences and adjust to a new normal. Many organizations now realize the possibility that not everyone may be returning. Who and how many are willing to return presents a variety of challenges. Safety is Priority One Updating health precautions and giving some employees the option to work remotely, if possible, is a start. Depending on their responsibilities and software while working remotely, cyber security updates become another consideration. For those returning to their work environment, being in a group setting following a prolonged period of quarantine will require some adjustments on both employees and organizations. We have to think about safety on many levels. Connecting with our people on a more personal level may take more time but a necessary step in adjusting to a new normal. Law firm Seyfarth Shaw LLP issued a flash survey to their clients to get a reading on employer reactions and responses to the COVID-19 crisis; they received more than 550 responses between March 12 and 16. Their respondents represented a wide variety of US employers; it’s a thought-provoking survey. “36% of respondents had already actively encouraged employees capable of working from home to do so. 48% were encouraging this only in hotspots or on a case-by-case basis. The remaining 16% were not encouraging it. 67% of respondents had taken proactive steps to expand the ability of their employees to work from home who didn’t already do so. The remainder were not or reported it was impractical or impossible. 73% of respondents were providing paid, or unpaid leave to employees in quarantine due to COVID-19. Almost 20% were unsure of the legal requirement or if it was at all practical or possible. The remainder were not providing leave. 48% of respondents were planning to provide leave to employees to provide childcare where schools or child care centers were closed. 32% were unsure of the legal requirements or if it was at all practical or possible. The remainder were not providing leave under these circumstances. As a new policy, 22% of respondents were planning to require a doctor’s note when someone has been out as a result of COVID-19. 40% reported this is already standard operating procedure. The remainder selected “no” or “not applicable.” 41% of those surveyed are paying wages as a result of COVID-19 work stoppages or quarantines. 27% are not. The remainder hadn’t considered it or were unsure of legal requirements. 30% reported allowing employees to wear dust masks or N-95 masks at work, pointing to the need for a clearly defined respirator policy. 3% of respondents reported having an employee test positive for COVID-19. Of those respondents:

  1. 50% closed for an extended period

  2. 25% closed for a day or two for cleaning

  3. 25% required anonymous disclosure and encouraged of self-quarantine”(1)

Rethinking Productivity Confronted with the reality of caring for the health and well being of our staff, the expectation of pre-COVID-19 levels of productivity may be premature and unrealistic. Many organizations cognizant of fluctuating economic conditions are focusing on the mental and emotional health and well being of their people. More employers are striking a balance of protecting the safety of their people first and maintaining as much productivity as those safety precautions will allow. Reconnect with Your People My experience over the years has taught me that love-driven leaders get the most from their people because they give the most to their people. A love-driven culture succeeds because it provides respect for all people. Many studies confirm that are respected feel accepted and validated tend to treat one another in like manner. In a love-driven culture, personnel are loyal, perform at higher levels, and welcome accountability. 3 Questions to Ask Your People As leaders, we need to be aware that the people returning to work may not necessarily be the same people who left us several months ago. To reconnect with your people and help them re-acclimate to a post-COVID-19 work environment. The following questions can help you gain some understanding of their needs.

  1. What was your experience during the crisis? What are you feeling about what you have gone through?

  2. Has anyone you know tested positive for COVID-19? Has anyone you know died from Coronavirus? What are your feelings about these events?

  3. What are your concerns returning to work in a group environment? How can we help you?

Natasha Bonnevalle says, “When we leave for work, we don’t leave our humanness at home. Our needs, emotions, and dreams come with us. We want to know that our colleagues respect us, recognize us, care for us – and we want to know that the people who lead us do the same.”

(1) COVID-19 Employer Flash Survey Results

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