Taking the human path back to work – A manager’s checklist

back to work

By turning right, keeping what was working well (there were some good things pre COVID-19), and ticking off these five key areas your employees will be engaged, inspired, and tap into their discretionary effort. It will be the difference between the old way and shaping a new way, writes Mark LeBusque 

The announcement has been made and we’re going back to the office.

Our elected officials have created a plan over three stages to kickstart the economy, and a critical piece here is transitioning employees (humans) from WFH back into the offices.

This will be no easy feat for managers, as energy levels have been depleted since they went into survival mode back in mid-March.  “Business as usual” is no longer and “business unusual” is now the catchphrase we must all adopt.

It starts by adding some of the valuable insights gathered from the last 6 weeks with what was working prior to COVID-19 and making a right turn. A path not well worn, but one full of potential and possibilities.

There’s some light at the end of the tunnel now, maybe not quite a clear path yet but we’ve come to a fork in the road.

Like any fork in the road, there are now some critical choices for managers to make that will clearly show they have learned some valuable lessons and gathered valuable insights that can quickly move them, their employees, and their business from surviving to thriving.

Which path do we take?
There’s much talk about unprecedented times, the new way, pivoting (the brilliant new buzzword), we can never go back to what work was, we’ve become human, etc, as we all experienced work in a very different way. It’s created excitement about what could be in the future of work.

But alas, as we stand at the fork in the road and we are greeted by the “old way”. It is clever and encourages you to take the path well worn, the 100-year old management model, the one you are familiar with, that’s made you a success up to now. Its story is well-rehearsed as it has convinced you in the past, in times of business upheaval (GFC anyone?), to go back to the old way. And you fell for it. Turned left at the fork in the road only to be disappointed and disappoint the employees who lived in hope that real change was coming.

Hope became hopelessness, delight turned to disappointment, and engaged humans went back to being disengaged robots. KPI’s were king again and human behaviour such as thankfulness, helpfulness, care, and fun were quickly forgotten because they can’t be measured.

What if you turned right?
You have a choice to make as a manager right now.

Ohio Governor Mike DeWine sums up the power of choice when standing at the fork in the road when he said:

“One of the most important things that I have learned in my 57 years is that life is all about choices.

On every journey you take, you face choices. At every fork in the road, you make a choice. And it is those decisions that shape our lives”.

You have a chance now to shape the lives of the business and the humans in your care by going back to work in a very human way.

It starts by adding some of the valuable insights gathered from the last 6 weeks with what was working prior to COVID-19 and making a right turn. A path not well worn, but one full of potential and possibilities. There will be some potholes to navigate for sure, and you might get lost at times as you travel down this new path. However, I’ve provided a checklist that will help you to dodge the potholes and get to a place where surviving turns into thriving.

“Business as usual” is no longer and “business unusual” is now the catchphrase we must all adopt.

The Human Managers Checklist
By turning right, keeping what was working well (there were some good things pre COVID-19), and ticking off these five key areas your employees will be engaged, inspired, and tap into their discretionary effort. It will be the difference between the old way and shaping a new way.

Give trust Thank your employees for their adaptability and resilience over the past two months and tell them you trust them to continue to do great work, particularly for those who will opt to work remotely.

Create a safety net – Allow for experimentation in a new world of work, encourage them to challenge both your thinking and the old ways of working to create a better work environment.

Reinforce their relevance & contribution When humans feel a sense of belonging they thrive. As the transition to the office happens make sure that you reinforce at an individual level why your employees are relevant and how they as an individual contribute to building a healthy and vibrant organisation.

Listen & learn  Great ideas come from the most unexpected places. You don’t have to have all the answers all the time. Get curious, be present, and encourage regular dialogue and brainstorming of how the experience of work can be better than before.

Balance is critical – Keep building on that deeper human connection created by checking in regularly with your team members on how they are feeling, how their family is doing, and make sure they are getting balance across the key areas of family, self, sleep, work and community time.

The journey back to the office has started. We’re opening for business.

You have a one-time pass now to change the way work is done and change the lives of those in your care.

What’s your choice? A left or right turn?

Image source: Depositphotos