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As governments work with businesses to reopen the economy, I am involved in more and more discussions with start-ups and business acquaintances regarding what the “new normal” will look like.
Below is a summary of 4 themes from these discussions. I am not an expert in the field of psychology or re-opening economy’s so this is by no means presented as advice, rather initial discussion points that I am sure many more people are probably having.
Feel free to comment, challenge or add to the points below
#1 – In-Office Social Distancing
As social distancing will be implemented in the workplace this will have an impact on the distance between cubicles and the number of people allowed in the office. The end-result is likely to be more space between desks resulting in less people in the office at any given time.
This will have some interesting impacts in terms of how to do this; who is essential to be in the office, which teams are required, is it team based or cross-functional based at any given time and how is the schedule going to be managed. These are just some common questions that seem to be repeated.
One comment I hear a-lot is, “teams have adapted to working from home”, what is the advantage of going back into an office?
#2 – Bridging Remote vs. In-Office Working
More organizations, before Covid, tended too skew towards either having their teams work the majority of their time in an office environment or remotely. Some organizations had a more of a hybrid model but in my observations the majority skewed one way or the other.
Since teams have all been forced to work 100% remotely for the past number of weeks, what happens when you return to the office. Let’s assume a team meeting of 8. If 4 people are in the office and 4 working remote (because of new office rules), then do the 4 go into a boardroom and join the other 4 via video or do they stay at their deck and join virtually because of in-office social distancing rules?
In the scenario above, it begs the question that if you adopt video meetings where people still login in on a one to one basis at their desks then what is the advantages of bringing people into the office?
#3 – Psychological Impact of Being in the Office
We all know the benefits of being physically with your team. The camaraderie that comes from being with people, the ability to see body language, the impromptu conversations that can lead to break through insights are a few advantages.
There is the flip side now. For weeks now, governments have been telling us to stay away from people and social isolate. Until such a time that there is a vaccine, some employees may be very hesitate to come back into the office. The anxiety of being in an office environment may simply be too much for them.
The question for managers, how do keep them engaged, part of the team and be as involved in the business. Will those employees be hurting their career if they work remotely for a longer time period relative to employees who are more comfortable coming into the office.
#4 – High-risk employees with pre-existing medical conditions
Certain employees will have existing medical conditions that may be related to a weakened immune system. In some aspects, less people in an office is actually good for these people compared to pre-Covid times. The flip-side is that Covid has probably made these individuals more acutely aware of the increased risks associated Covid.
An interesting question is about who makes the choice for these employees about taking them out of their homes and putting them back into an office. Is the decision based on the employer to mandate or is it an opt-in/opt-out question for the employee? Does it apply to the group that may not have a medical condition but rather are part of the group highlighted in point #3.
I am sure all companies and managers of people are thinking about the above. With respect to the above, here are some of my personal thoughts.
Great vs. Weak Managers
We are entering an environment where great people managers will be highly valuable to organizations. These are the managers who can think horizontally and are aware of their teams styles. They know what is required to enable different people, personalities and working styles to come together to produce results. Great managers who are inclusive, excellent communicators and are adaptable will role with the punches and will probably excel in this situation and drive highly productive teams. I won’t speak to the qualities of a weak managers but in this environment I think they will be more exposed than ever.
Great vs. Weak Employees
We have all heard about A, B and C players. Great employees, we know them, regardless of situation and environment they persevere, they adapt, they deliver and they lead. These people will thrive in this environment. Some A employees will have constraints, medical or psychological, so great managers will need to work with them to alleviate those constraints and open up the path for them to continue to be the leaders they are. I am a firm believer in over investing in your A players as they are key to helping elevate your entire team.
People have always been the competitive advantage for organizations. Post Covid this is going to be even more so. Great people will adjust and will thrive in the “new normal” as long as organizations are flexible enough to allow for this to happen.
I am optimistic in the “new normal”.