As we continue to operate under stay at home orders, new habits and behaviors are created that may become permanent. Home offices that started out as temporary nooks are now furnished, photos and plants added that create more of a permanent ambiance. Routines that replace commuting with yoga or exercise in the morning or afternoon. The opportunity to have meals with the family, or even injecting a bit of fun with kids or pets throughout the day starts to alter family dynamics and possibly create new norms. I’m not saying it’s all perfect, maybe even far from it. Perhaps we’re using our negotiation skills to get some semblance of quiet during an important phone call. Problem solving when you have to coordinate a cello or piano lesson for one, German for another, and a coaching call that happens at the same time and hoping the network bandwidth holds up. Sound familiar?
If you are a leader of a company, or division within a company, you need to consider what changes there will be once stay at home is lifted. Take time now to craft well thought out messages you deliver to your employees when they ask questions. I’ll start by giving you four scenarios you may want to consider having answers for.
1. Ability to work from home one or more days a week. You should now have data that supports an answer to this question from a productivity and performance perspective, and now you can use it to frame your response. Think if you can craft a policy statement that creates appropriate boundaries. Identify any roles that may be excluded, limits to how many days, and expectations for ability to connect.
2. Flexible work hours. Reflect if there is a true need to operate on the schedule in place before the stay at home orders were issued. If there is a need to limit or not have flexibility, articulate why. If not, identify changes that make sense and can be put in place.
3. Office etiquette. With this extended period of isolation from co-workers, new individual ways of working may have been formed. Create a safe space to communicate and discuss. Maybe people getup more from their desk, work in different locations throughout the day, or just want more focused time to get work done. Stimulate dialog among everyone to ensure awareness and alignment of any changes.
4. Support for parents when schools are still closed. You may open the doors to your company, but many schools won’t be going back until the next term. Employees may not have childcare options - what can you do to remove or reduce this source of stress for your employees?
As you step back and take a look at the root of these questions, they all boil down to trust and communication. If you take time now to identify the behaviors you expect and thinking about appropriate boundaries, you will be able to answer the questions as they come. Make sure there is clear understanding and alignment to embark on this new journey into the next phase of your company or organization. In addition, make sure they know it’s ok to ask questions. Let them know you may not have all the answers, but will work with them to keep them apprised.