2020 has been an unprecedented year with COVD-19 pandemic impacting almost every country in the world. Sudden lockdowns in various parts of the world including India saw a massive change in the way people work. The pace of change was so rapid that most leaders had to take huge effort to ensure that their employees continue to deliver the promises made to customers and remain engaged, healthy, and safe. The elaborate Business Continuity programs (BCPs) designed earlier were tested to their limits.
If 2020 was the year of COVID-19, 2021 , promises to be a somewhat different year – the year of the COVID-19 vaccination and potentially a decision on whether to have employees return to workplace or continue to work from home or a combination of both i.e. hybrid workforce.
This will obviously have an impact on employee engagement. If managed well, employees will be more engaged than ever before and be happy to return to their workplace. However, the workplace in 2021 may not exactly resemble that of pre-COVID-19. Suddenly the level- playing field of everyone working from home has vanished. Employees are faced with a Hobson’s choice – return to office, connect with colleagues in-person, but continue to worry about their own health and safety and that of their family. Or, work from the safety of home but feel lonely and somewhat disconnected from the rest of the team and workplace. Both these situations if not addressed proactively, will lead to lower levels of engagement and productivity.
So, leaders now face a new challenge of leading and engaging teams where members of the same team may have a completely different work experience.
Here are three tips for leaders to navigate this situation:
1. Acknowledge the difference and challenges in different parts of your team depending on their current work situation (Work from home, Work from office or hybrid). Use Online or face to face meetings to connect and check-in with each team member every day.
2. At least once every fortnight, have an all-hands meeting where everyone , including team members who are working from office, join online and update each other on their current project. Keep some time in this meeting to discuss what actions will drive engagement in your teams. Use this opportunity to set direction, align the team towards the overall goal and purpose. Be open to suggestions and ideas from the team. It will ensure stronger collaboration, focus and understanding of what matters most.
3. Encourage team members to informally connect with each other on impromptu Virtual Coffees and celebrate Personal or Professional Milestone using Teams and Zoom. They will love it!