7 Steps for Navigating the New Normal in the Workplace

Posted on 24th August 2021

Change has been a massive part of the last 18 months.  The pre-covid way of working has shifted. Remote working has become mainstream, and the changes imposed by the pandemic have influenced how working life will be structured for the foreseeable future.  Many businesses are remodelling completely to deal with this reality. 

Now we’re in this phase of establishing a new reality for the business environment, there are some key things to consider for this ‘new normal’.

1.     The Productivity Factor

For some the lack of actual day to day contact with colleagues has been difficult. For others it has enhanced their productivity. Obviously for those that are organised and with a good work ethic, productivity would not have been negatively impacted. However, individual circumstances which are outside an individual’s control can have a negative influence on productivity. All this needs to be assessed as part of the process of establishing new business norms which take into account the needs of the business and the needs of the team.

2.     Assess the Psychological Impact

Some businesses are urging people back to the office. Getting back to the office may reveal differences in personality types like never before. For an extrovert the opportunity to bond over a quick pre-meeting catch up will be a welcome relief from the sterile awkward restrictions of an online meeting. For some the lack of actual day to day contact with colleagues has been difficult. For others it may be a dreaded return to more contact with colleagues and a focus on more in person team activities.  More introverted personalities may have thrived with the opportunity to focus on delivery without the pressures of social interactions. The psychological impact will differ by personality type and managing the transition will require business leaders to take extra care.  Managers need to be tuned in to the individual impact on the psychological wellbeing of their team. They also need to be aware of the collective impact of how individuals are mandated to work in terms of organisational culture. 

3.     Consider New Models of Flexible Working

Whist some people have gained time with a reduction in commuting time, for others their working at home conditions has imposed domestic chaos for a number of personal reasons which has made combining home and office a nightmare. Some people have not had the optimal conditions for remote working, and this may mean they are keen to get back to a normal working day in the office.  On the other hand, other people may have thrived working from home.

Research has shown that in some instances home working can create an extra day per week of productivity. If you collate travel time, informal breaks and other distractions at work that time saving can be significant. This increased productivity may have been an eye opener to business leaders. The view that working from home means less productivity has been well and truly knocked on the head.

If workers can work from home and there are no issues with productivity consideration needs to be given to new ways of looking at flexible working.

4.     Carry out Risk Assessments

Risk assessments are now very important. First of all, risk assessment of the operations and impact of the new reality on the bottom line and also Individual risk assessments. Carrying out a risk assessment to identify all risks to each worker depending on his/her unique situation may be a big undertaking in a huge organisation and clearly if there are sensible infection control and risk mitigations in place, the approach can be tailored. In general terms, these need to be modified to take into account new realities and new risks which prior to 2020, may not necessarily have been huge considerations.

The normal health and safety policy and procedures should be reviewed to ensure the premises and working conditions allow for healthy and safe working.  Obviously, the remedial steps depend on the industry and sector. Managers should familiarise themselves with good practice guidelines and ensure that this are put in place.  Also ensure that there are regular reviews so that you can be up to date.

5.     Create Spaces for social interactions

This is necessary to build team relationships. The downside of working remotely is that it doesn’t create space for those informal catch ups that help team bonding. Those informal often unscheduled chats, ‘water cooler’ moments can be difficult in formal remote meetings. Try setting up short update meetings which allow for genuine interactions. These can help if there is a mixture of in person and online meetings to encourage a hybrid approach which is part of the transition and will offer choice.

Managers should take an intentional and experimental approach. Some people will have changed their approach to meeting up socially, either more enthusiastic, less enthusiastic or somewhere in between. Allow some social interaction to develop organically where possible.  However, managers can support by encouraging the process of informal chats and meetups to reset team camaraderie.

6.     Allow for ‘getting on’ with Substantive Work.

The remote way of working may have led to a tendency to overschedule meetings to reduce lack of connection and to maintain communications. Although well-meaning this can create lack of focus on the actual priority of delivering substantive work. Reports, plans and assessments, etc, etc may require consultation and discussions, but research, analysis and compilation are needed outside of big meetings. Getting back to in person work, there may be a tendency to overcompensate with too frequent meetings and update sessions, this can be counterproductive if it means that there is less substantive work being done during working hours.

7.     Develop a Business Model that Future-proofs your Operations

The pandemic has made many business leaders pause and reflect. Planning for the future is now paramount. Business plans need to be reviewed and revised. In designing a model for the new workplace, some key questions need to be addressed. Are you able to streamline your operations? Can you save money with less office space? Is your workforce mainly local, or mainly based on long distance commuters? What type of workforce do you need for the future? Have you outlined new performance indicators as part of your growth?  Do you need to accommodate growth and more in person client interactions or space for other purposes?

There are so many ways to get support during this transition period. For a confidential discussion to how we can help book a call info@dynamicdevelopmentconsulting.co.uk

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