Carol Barkes, CPM, MBA, is a conflict resolution expert, mediator, national speaker, educator and bestselling author who uniquely applies neuroscience to the fields of conflict resolution and negotiations. Her expert perspective is always fresh and relevant.
about planning for employees to return to work:
With states lifting COVID-19 restrictions, some businesses can reopen their offices but it won’t be like flipping the switch back on. What should a business consider before asking employees to come back after working from home? What should their return-back policies include, and what do they need to do to keep employees safe? Who should come back first, and who should maybe become permanently remote?
- New practices. Businesses must look at their environment and find ways to clean, secure social distancing, work with less people in a space, and help clients understand new processes/policies. How we do business will likely be very different, so this will take the most time as our brains will want to get us to go back to what we were doing.
- Change management will be key. Neuroscience researcher, David Rock, created a SCARF model for change. This type of model will be key. Particularly important will be the “C” which stands for certainty. When our brains cannot “connect the dots” they go to a negative place and create evil plot twists. Make sure leadership is communicating clearly and often about changes and how they will impact the team. Also, be sure to involve the team in making decisions about changes. Top down changes will be less positively received and are more likely to fail.
- Continue some work remotely. Not everyone needs to return to the office. Consider letting some people continue working from home. Also consider hybrid teams where people work partially from home and partially from the office. Some people may want to be back at work, while others might prefer to be at home. Consider changing workloads to support flexibility. Let your team have input about how they are most productive. Either way, distraction management will be key as will meeting management. Virtual team meetings can significantly reduce productivity, so resist the urge to schedule meetings as a means to micromanage team attendance. Also, be flexible when remote teams are working. This is an excellent time to take advantage of our own natural clocks and allow employees to work when they are at their best. For instance, let a night owl work at night when they are most alert and productive.
- Create a mask policy and see it through. If you require masks to be worn at all times, then you need to enforce this. A policy that is not enforced will create employee friction between those complying and those not. Be specific with your expectations.
- Listen to employee concerns. If asked, employees will tell you their thoughts and ideas. These can be very insightful as to their working frame of mind. Be inquisitive. Be flexible. Be creative—Your team will appreciate it.
Interview: Carol Barkes
Carol Barkes, CPM, MBA, is a trend-setting mediator, business executive and educator specializing in the use of neuroscience to improve business performance, interpersonal communications, negotiation and conflict resolution processes for optimally successful results. She is also a speaker, educator, and author of the bestselling book: Success Breakthroughs: Leading Entrepreneurs and Professionals Reveal Their Secrets for Breaking Through to Success.
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