I know I don’t have to remind you of the fact we are currently living through a pandemic.

For Victorians, the shiz is real as we are the first (and currently, the only) Australians living through stage 4 restrictions.

Shout out to my new colleague in the home office. Turns out 24 years married does not guarantee a smooth transition to running two very different business from the same room. And that’s without factoring in the dodgy-as-all Wi-Fi.

Ahem.

This new normal means organisations need to get busy finding out what it is their people need and want from their employer to help survive and ultimately thrive.

What this looks like in practice.

This section brought to you by the magic of zoom

Via the magic of remote conferences and zoom coffees, over the last couple of weeks I have been busily gathering stories around what some of the leading global brands have been doing to help their employees navigate the pandemic. Organisations such as Atlassian, LinkedIn, Pepsi-Cola, Amazon and Seek to name a few.

Here is a summary of what I have learned is crucial:

  1. Your employees need to feel your organisation cares about them as a person. Remember, feelings are always real for the people that are feeling them.

I know the Victorian numbers are dire, and intellectually I understand why we are in ISO 2.0. Doesn’t stop me getting angry at people/government/my new home office colleague/the rest of the country – or any/all the above, depending on the time of day.

I should feel safe to express how I feel to my manager without judgment – because my manager cares enough about me to ask how I am. As well as asking questions to indicate you care about your employees, you also need to actively listen to their response. Be present in the discussion, not thinking about what is next on the to do list.

  1. Have consistent, ongoing dialogue and get comfortable in ambiguity. In other words, don’t feel you have to jump in and solve the problem your team member is complaining about. If it is not within your circle of control (hello, COVID19) then you can’t control it anyway. So, sit with the discomfort alongside your team member.
  1. Send individual text or chat messages / emails to Victorians to check how they are going. By individual, I mean from you as their manager or head of business unit, to them individually.

Ask them how they are managing remote learning if they have children at home; or ask them how the dog is coping with only one hour of walking per day. You should know the individual circumstances of each of your direct reports. If you don’t, whilst I’m tempted to ask what you have been doing the last 5 months, I will settle for THEN START NOW.

  1. Introduce policies to avoid Zoom fatigue. I.e.
    • No meetings after 3pm or between set hours such as 12.30pm – 2.30pm and none on Friday afternoons.
    • Prohibit back: back zoom meetings, insist on a minimum half hour break between.
    • If you are a large organisation, remove layers where possible of decision making to lessen the number of meetings required to make decisions.
  1. Ensure any well-being initiatives in your organisation are relevant and accessible to ALL employees, as well as aligned with your overall company values.
  1. Show or develop trust in your employees. You hired them, so presumably you believed them capable of doing the job as well as being fully formed adults. If you are wondering how you can ensure they are remaining productive when WFH, ask yourself how you did this before?

Presumably, it was (or it should have been) by setting a series of deliverables, KPIs, goals. Then measuring an individual and team’s performance against those respective goals.

Just because you can’t SEE an employee working, doesn’t mean you can’t measure their performance just as you always have done.

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  1. Work on retaining the culture you had pre-pandemic and that you want to retain now and in the future.

For example: –

  • As teams in other states or countries start coming back to the office, make sure that if one person in the team is still remote working, then when you have team meetings, everyone has to dial in as if also remote working. IE if five team members are in the Brisbane office and one is in Melbourne, then the five Brisbane members all go into separate rooms and dial into the virtual team meeting.
  • Understand that even though employees may see benefits to working from home, surveys indicate a high likelihood (sometimes as high as 91%) that employees will want to come back into the office in the future. Especially for socialising with their peers, team development and collaboration. Flexibility will be key to the ‘new normal’ office environment – so start thinking NOW about how that might look for your organisation. Highlight on the YOUR – what is right for one organisation will not necessarily work for another.
  • Hold company wide events like virtual trivia nights or hack days; coffee chats with the CEO and other Executive team; costume themed Friday afternoon drinks; weekly virtual ‘show and tells’ during lunchtime so everyone in the team can learn more about each other.

Above all else, remember a company doesn’t exist without people. Amazon is a great example. Automation might be responsible for processing and even packaging my online orders. But it is a real human who is going to drive her or his truck to my house, wrangle my sticky front gate and my over-friendly border collie, and deliver the package to my home. Preferably with a smile on their face to match the one on mine (because – parcels! Unwrapping! Excitement!).

During these abnormal times, you need to be ensuring your employees feel seen and heard. If you don’t know what your employees want – ASK THEM. Be committed to delivering what they tell you they want, and if you can’t deliver it, then tell them why.

If you would like help uncovering how your employees genuinely feel, what they are concerned about, and what action they would like to see taken: then I’m your gal. Asking the right questions, drawing out answers and packaging it all up into an actionable report is my superpower. Share my powers by calling me on 0400019599 or by email: alison@workologyco.com.au