business team having a video conference

Fostering a Healthy Culture in the Post-Pandemic Workplace

The post-pandemic workplace is going to look, feel, behave, and operate differently than before, and many of these changes may be permanent. It is more important than ever for leadership teams around the world to invest real time, energy, and commitment to their work environments, and in particular, their employees, as we all try to embrace this new normal.

The challenges are significant. Your employees may have feelings of uncertainty – they may not know how to act and react around others. They may not want to be at work because their children are still not back in school and are struggling with childcare. Your employees may be either overly cautious regarding the pandemic, or not cautious, or anywhere in between. Your employees may have experienced and still be experiencing heightened levels of anxiety – and they may not know how to manage it or deal with it.

How Does the Employer Manage All These Emotional Reactions?

The workplace itself will likely be different. Employees will have new rules, processes, and safety guidelines, all of which will bring about varying opinions. How does the employer implement things in the new workplace, yet still be productive and viable?

There are several key considerations and actions that employers can – and should – be taking in the current and post-pandemic world of work to create a healthy and productive culture and environment for all stakeholders:

  • Communication and Connection
  • Empathy, Compassion, and Grace
  • Managing Change
  • ACT!

First and foremost, you must communicate effectively, often, and with as much transparency as possible. Whatever your platforms for communication happen to be – stand-ups, staff meetings, electronic communications, Zoom, videos, etc. – it will be more important than ever that you are keeping your employees informed of what is going on. Require managers and supervisors to check in frequently with their direct reports and communicate consistently. Maybe it’s a weekly video from the CEO, weekly all-staff meeting, weekly 1:1s between managers and their direct reports – or better yet, all of the above. Consistency will be key!

Second, being empathetic and showing compassion and grace will be incredibly important in keeping your workforce. Your employees will look elsewhere if they perceive your managers and supervisors don’t care about them. Managers must be trained to interact with and respond appropriately to employees, particularly in times of high emotion. This requires being a good listener. You must stop what you are doing, give your undivided attention to your employee, and respond with empathy. And a little compassion and grace go a very long way towards your employees feeling supported.

Next, effectively implementing change means helping employees to accept and even embrace change more quickly. It is now more critical than ever. Three actions, as described in Development Dimensions International’s (DDI) course, Driving Change, can help you do that:

  • Describe what is changing and why. People tend to respond favorably to change when they understand the business reason for it and can see its benefits.
  • Seek employees’ reactions to the change. It helps them feel heard and involved in what’s happening and goes a long way toward building trust and commitment.
  • Regain a sense of control. If people learn that they can control aspects of the change or at least have some influence over them, they’ll be more open and more likely to embrace the change.

Lastly, leadership has the responsibility to ACT. Leadership must have a plan in place, communicate that plan effectively, and connect the dots by sharing how the plan relates to each employee. It will also be helpful to create rituals and routines, while also being realistic and flexible with regards to your expectations. And what is your rallying cry – what do we need to be doing right now? Your employees will need and appreciate a sense of control and to see that things are being handled. It is another vital human need. Your employees want to feel that they are in good hands and that the company has things under control.

Opportunities in the New Workplace

While these are tough times, there is opportunity all around us that can be capitalized on in the workplace. Patrick Lencioni’s podcast, Why We Innovate in a Crisis, analyzes why there has been innovation during this time “and how we can bring that creativity and urgency back with us into the new normal.”

The post-pandemic workplace is going to look, feel, behave, and operate differently than before, and many of these changes may be permanent. It is more important than ever for leadership teams around the world to invest real time, energy, and commitment to their work environments, and in particular, their employees, as we all try to embrace this new normal.

Archbright’s courses, Communicating with Impact, and Driving Change, are great investments for the post-pandemic workplace.

  • Driving Change is a Web-based class that provides the skills and resources leaders need to accelerate the process of implementing change with their team members and to create an agile work environment where people are more open to change.
  • Communicating with Impact, held virtually, provides individuals with a powerful set of interaction skills that enables them to communicate more effectively with colleagues and customers and, in the process, build trust, strengthen partnerships, and achieve desired results.

A version of this article first appeared in June Insights.

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Krisann Hatch, Director, Workplace Innovation

Krisann Hatch has been with Archbright for over six years, working with companies to strategize, innovate, and implement HR solutions, deliver employee-development training, and provide advice, consultation, and support on a wide-range of HR issues. In her new role in Workplace Innovation, Krisann plays a pivotal role in development of new services for Archbright members. Prior to Archbright, Krisann spent nearly 25 years at all levels in Human Resources with Red Lion Hotels, including being their Senior Vice President, Human Resources from 2002 through 2013. Krisann has an undergraduate degree in Business Administration from Eastern Washington University, an MBA from Washington State University, and is a certified Senior Professional in Human Resources (SPHR, SHRM-SCP).