12 tricks to successfully handle your workforce with COVID-19 and better

The year 2020 will be remembered for many things, including a once-unimaginable shift in employees from on-site work to work from home. In a variety of industries – technology, banking and finance, sales, consulting, and beyond – employers are dramatically changing their views on work-from-home agreements.

"I turned around in this regard," said David Kenny, CEO of Nielsen, in a recent article for the New York Times about his support for employees who work from home.

What attracts the employer's attention is the variety of positive aspects – financially and otherwise from a growing number of remote workers. These include large savings through location optimization, rental and maintenance costs for buildings, the lack of long commuting times and the potential for higher productivity and commitment.

Many employees also welcome the postponement. Almost half of the employees who currently work from home want to keep this regulation. This emerges from a recent employee survey conducted by our Grossman Group team.

My own experiences with customers show that the great work-from-home experiment has gone relatively well so far. Employees have adapted, are on the rise in times of crisis and generally feel that their relationship with teams and superiors is good in a virtual work environment.

Our recent employee survey of 841 U.S. employees in various industries found that employees working from home had good grades for communicating with their employers and for the general response to the pandemic. This could have helped to increase employee confidence in a distant work situation in the long term.

Most important results of employees who now work from home:

  • 78% agreed that their management would live up to the values ​​of their organization during this time
  • 90% stated that their confidence in their organization has increased or has remained the same
  • 88% indicated that their satisfaction with their organization as an employer has increased or remained the same
  • 80% agreed that their line manager provide the information they need to work in the pandemic

Despite the interest in work-from-home arrangements, one size does not fit everyone. Employees will continue to crave flexibility, with some still preferring to work on-site now or when re-entry is possible. Employers need to manage the competing and evolving needs of their teams.

With this in mind, here is our best advice on how to manage this challenging transition:

12 tips for employers to effectively manage their workforce with COVID-19 and beyond

1. Listen to employees and be open to their needs (not just their needs).

In a short time, a lot has changed in the working life of employees. It is therefore more important than ever to have an impulse on how your views on the ideal work environment can develop. Research with employees to understand their desires and concerns about the future of work, where they would work best, and why. We learn more about how different the needs of employees are. Adapting to these differences strengthens the skills of a team and an organization. For each employee, think about what improvements are required for safety, productivity and well-being.

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2. Pay particular attention to the local staff.

Many employees have no choice whether they want to come to work, be it in production or at other locations such as laboratories, hospitals or even parcel delivery. Listen to these employees to understand which strategies work today from a perspective of needs as well as perspective so that they are not only safe but also committed and motivated in their work. Pay particular attention to informing the staff about the security measures you have taken. Consider even clearer and more generous sick leave arrangements, and stress the importance of staying at home when employees are sick.

3. Establish a “best place” strategy and be “flexible” when determining where employees will work in the future.

Although it is not surprising, many employees have gotten an impression of a new way of working – and they like it. This leads to different employee preferences. take these differences as strength. As the old saying goes: "There is nothing more unfair than equal treatment of inequalities." Treat employees as individuals. Recognize that people have different work styles and skills, which is the basis for inclusion, diversity and belonging. This requires companies to consider "flexibility" – so that employees can work where they think this is the "best place" for them and where they are best able to do their best. Companies are stronger if they promote the strengths of their diverse employee base.

4. Make sure that new employees who come on board feel virtually supported and committed.

Many new employees who have joined companies since the pandemic started have never met their employer, manager or team member personally. From the interview process to the first working days, everything was handled virtually. However, these employees are still in a situation where they are expected to work very closely with their new team virtually, trying to connect only via video conferencing or phone calls, without taking advantage of the normal occasional interactions that the Help people get to know each other and trust each other. Given this reality, it is particularly important to pay even more attention to new employees and ensure that they have enough time to ask questions and get involved. Assigning a mentor or someone willing to regularly review them to new employees can make an important contribution to building a more seamless transition and ensuring that they feel valued new members of the team.

Tips for managing remote workers

5. Limit your priorities and focus.

This pandemic has put a clear focus on what was important and needed to be done. This clarity led to faster and more productive results. Use these insights to review and revise your company's strategy to ensure that it reflects how you will win in the future in the context of the reality of the current situation. This plan is intended to help employees understand general performance goals and how everyone is measured. After codification, communicate what matters most (and what can wait) and help employees understand what they can do to help the company succeed.

6. Consider a cultural change.

Take the opportunity to improve your way of working. Challenge the status quo and codify new ways of working for the future in the context of your gain – your mission, vision, values ​​and behaviors. If necessary, update your values ​​and behaviors to reflect the new realities. Do the organization's past values ​​and behaviors continue to serve well? Do some need to be dropped? What new behaviors need to be added in the context of the new business environment? In particular, you can say more about the level of trust required. When more people work from home, trust is crucial because employees don't stand in front of each other that often to see how much time is being spent.

7. Evaluate and optimize your communication.

Know what's working and what's not in your company's communications system, including channels. Ask employees for their feedback and determine how they can communicate most effectively in the future, to reach key target groups where they are and to help them feel engaged. As part of this communication assessment, identify the communication successes and failures in the COVID-19 work environment. As difficult as the pandemic started, some organizations may have identified some surprising success stories. Perhaps the teams have learned that some meetings are best done virtually. Crisis mode may have helped the organization work better together across departments and make decisions faster. By examining which communication efforts worked and which didn't, your company can decide what to do to make all teams more efficient and effective in the future.

8. Doubling of "real" employee communication.

One of our greatest insights is that if employees take communication seriously, they can not only survive the storm, but can face any challenge. Frequency, empathy, authenticity, focus, clarity and timeliness are far more than presentation and vocabulary. With a clear focus and priorities during COVID-19, executives communicated with a sense of truth and urgency and shared what they knew when they knew it while answering ongoing employee questions as daily reporting increased fears . This more urgent communication approach was very effective and led to more engagement. The managers also understood that they had to clear the way for employees to do important work. It is so important to continue this uncomplicated, consistent and honest approach in the future. Managers also have to constantly invite their employees to real conversations about their concerns. By promptly addressing managers, they demonstrate that it is generally important to them to respond to employee needs.

9. Surround yourself with fortune tellers.

Even if they are regularly invited to share their views, it is still difficult for many employees to give honest feedback with managers. In addition, many fear that challenging executives could endanger their work, especially in this uncertain time. However, managers need to know what their employees really care about, what works and what doesn't. Identify who these fortune tellers in your organization are – the people who are willing to share open concerns about issues. Especially in times of crisis, you can get a better overview of the unmet needs of the company through frequent conversations with your fortune tellers.

10. Share success stories.

When new ways of working lead to impressive results, share these profits with the team so everyone can continue to learn from developing best practices. These stories also give the company the opportunity to thank teams and individuals for doing great things for the company, for each other, and for customers.

celebrate success stories

11. Prepare your managers for the new world.

Managers need different skills and techniques to support and motivate their teams no matter where they work. Gather best practices that you learned during COVID-19 administration and deliberately endeavor to share them. Make sure you learn lessons from things that don't work as well. Consider training to prepare managers to effectively manage remote and site-based teams.

12. Resist the trend of becoming a “big brother” of employees.

As many media reports recently, some managers turn to monitoring software to ensure that employees are productive at work from home. Some employers even require employees to keep webcams on to monitor their active hours. They also plan multiple daily check-ins to keep track of employee activities. This is a big mistake, as it undermines the trust that is crucial for a healthy relationship between employer and employee. Employers should not control productivity based on the hours spent, but rather the results of their employees. Do your team members meet their deadlines? Working effectively with your employees? Do you help deliver innovation and impressive results for the company? This is really important, not whether they had a lunch break or went for a walk with the dog.

As challenging as the pandemic was for everyone today, it offers employers the much-needed opportunity to rethink their vision for the future of work. Now is the time to rewrite the rules as nobody imagined weeks ago. The coming changes could lead to a completely changed or at least far more flexible working environment. In the end, I hope for a transition that offers a win-win situation for everyone, both employers and employees.

What tips would you add to this list? What do you think is most important for employers as they adapt to the new reality of work, both during the pandemic and beyond?

– –David Grossman

Click below to download the summary report.Working during COVID-19: US employees working for remote work– and access data to understand how US workers think about working in a post-pandemic world.

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