Countries are at very different stages of returning to the new ‘normal’ as we move from pandemic to endemic. Many organisations are increasing office capacities, as staff return to full or hybrid office / remote working conditions, which will require guidance. What we will see will be a sliding scale of return, dependent on the organisation and the employees. To manage this, organisations should support employees across the wider organisation to attain a proper level of functionality through the provision of information and resources. This requires the establishment of planning and management arrangements, which are accepted and understood by the whole organisation.
In this latest insight from 4C Strategies, Principal Consultant Ben White looks at some of the challenges that we will face in `returning´ to the office, and provides some perspectives on what organisations should consider in their planning and communications to staff.
So the key question is: how do we plan for a relatively quick return to this new sliding scale of normality and deal with the challenges that it brings?
Below we have listed some of the more common challenges:
- Assessing current status. How does our business look following the crisis, how have we fared? All businesses have been impacted in some way by the crisis, some have even had to deal with the added issues of the Suez Canal blockage that brought added strains on the supply chain, while the recent rise in fuel costs is eating revenues. As with any crisis it is essential to manage business and finances carefully.
- Employee availability. Who is available to return to work? Where are all our people currently and do we know who can continue to work from home for longer periods and who is actually available (and willing) to return to the place of work?
- Opening up workplaces. Organisations need to reconsider their day-to-day management, space allocation and timings as many meetings continue to be held online. Will new guidelines be imposed by building management, what hygiene equipment will they provide and what will we need to provide?
- International operations. Major challenges remain with the impacts on the supply chain and travel between one country and another. Countries are in very different stages of response, where we can travel and what restrictions we face will vary from country to country for some time.
Once we have understood these challenges we must think about some planning assumptions or core principles for returning to work. These planning assumptions can then be used as the basis for selecting options and recovery strategies. We have come up with a few suggestions below:
- Organisations need to understand the full capability that they currently have at their disposal.
- Flexibility and adaptability are the key skills required. Results will have to be continuously looped or mapped back to the objectives, which will evolve over time, with the outcomes measured for success.
- New waves may arise that force people back to remote working conditions. Protocols must be kept in place to enable a quick return if necessary.
- Organisations will need to develop safe working practices.
- Organisations will need to reassure staff members and stakeholders that the arrangements deployed are appropriate and effective.
We offer end-to-end crisis management training covering everything from capability development to evaluation, debriefing and lessons management. Find out more about these, and how to train staff to deliver structured debriefing sessions.