In light of physical offices preparing to re-open in Singapore and around the globe, for the first time ever in corporate history, the well-being of employees has truly become a major point of focus for employers. Employees could be experiencing a cascade of emotions at their return to work and if leaders do not address some of these anxieties, the resulting discomfort could show up in absenteeism, decreased productivity and sudden turnover.
As Singapore's experience with imported labour has taught us, the health, hygiene and welfare of not just foreign workers, but of practically all white and blue collared workers, should now take on increased urgency and priority. At this stage, it will be wise for businesses and organisations to move forward with this at the core of their employee retention strategy.
We must be careful not to assume that our teams and systems will automatically start up strong from where they left off. Months of anxiety, isolation and new routines may have changed the lifestyles and objectives of many.
With the impending return to offices, one main question looms on many leaders' minds: How can business leaders re-engage their teams and retain their employees effectively to continue in their roles which they have invested so much effort in?
Here are some key components we have identified for you to consider retaining your employees in this next chapter of your organization's history:
1. Sufficient Technological Support and Flexi-hours for remote work
Firstly, phase in your employees back to offices incrementally. Do not rush to have all of them return at the same time, especially if you have not implemented the appropriate safety measures and hygiene practices in the workplace.
This pandemic has certainly taught the corporate world that with the right technology in place, not every worker needs to be at the same place, at the same time.
Online teleconferencing, chats, discussions, digital marketing have all sped up the journey towards a digital economy. Even deals can now be clinched digitally. This has most certainly changed the face of the workplace and the structure of working 9 to 5 in the office forever.
Questions about Flexi-hours, for example, will then be raised; whether one can spend alternate days working from home or work shorter hours in the week in this climate. As long as the appropriate technology and cyber-security processes are in place, these changes are achievable. It will certainly allow cohorts like single mothers and working mothers to be more at ease as they juggle between work and home schooling for their kids as this pandemic continues.
2. One on One conversations
Once safety measures and hygiene policies are in place and employees are returning in stages, this will then give leaders the opportunity to conduct staggered, one-on-one conversations with employees. These conversations will help gauge your employee’s overall anxiety or even excitement, about coming back into the office.
It also demonstrates that you do care about where your teams are at emotionally and mentally, and helps set the stage for you to identify which particular employee requires more attention or which may have even lost interest in working. This gives you insight into either re-deploying this individual for another job scope which motivates them, or think of other alternatives such as converting them to part-time.
3. Continuous Engagement
Focusing on one thing these past few months has become very tough for everyone especially with so much bad news floating around. Even working from home has its own share of issues that when combined with other extrinsic matters, can demoralize and distract your employees.
This is where your role as a responsible leader comes into play. With a little research into digital platforms, any company can adopt an online employee rewards and recognition system.
Such a system enables your employees to appreciate and nominate their colleagues for various awards, ushering in a culture of peer recognition which is much needed in our present situation.
Another way to create ongoing engagement with your teams is by embedding a Strategic Wellness program into your workplace which will be impactful in the long term and other programs relevant for this season such as: Building resilience, leading remote teams, developing a robust company culture and leaders for the next wave of growth in your organization during these uncertain times.
4. Reassure, Be Open and Trust.
Right now, there is nothing more important than being transparent and letting your teams know where your organization stands in terms of business viability. But it is even more important to highlight their positive impact on the company and how the business can come out of this storm stronger because of their help and support.
Besides giving them a sense of security, it shows unity coming from the top and will increase employee loyalty and long-term success. Reassurance can mean a world of difference to employees right now especially for those with financial difficulties.
While some in leadership may find this step to be superfluous, when it comes to retaining your employees during times of crisis, one of the best things you can do is to be upfront and over communicate with your teams.
After 9/11 hit, many employees shared how important it was to hear the voice of their leader through emails, phone messages, or social media as a form of crisis management & communication.
Undoubtedly many employees will be feeling anxious about returning to the office. Ignoring those fears won’t dissipate them. But if you can empathically assess and address their concerns, you will not only have less fearful and more productive employees, you will earn a team of loyal and resilient people who will be more than willing to stay and work the extra mile in this new future of your business.
Engaging Leaders partners you to activate this change in your people and ignite your organisation by boosting their morale for better productivity and performance.
Monica Tan, firstname.lastname@example.org
Monica Tan, Engaging Leaders, leads our clients through a journey of performance and change. With more than 15 years of client and project management experience, she serves as a key advisor to our clients.