by Kathy Cooperman
Once again, we face uncertainty in the workplace. The recent announcement from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released new guidelines regarding the wearing of masks for individuals who are fully vaccinated. Now, people are left wondering how this will impact them and their daily routines. Leaders and employees are confused as to how this change will alter their place of work.
In the past year and a half, we have surprisingly met the demand of virtual everything. Most meetings are conducted via a virtual platform such as Zoom, Adobe Connect, Blackboard, GoToMeeting, etc. Adults and children have mastered the art of communicating at a distance rather than face to face.
In leadership programs, I hear both leaders and individual contributors speculating about when they will return to work (brick and mortar building as opposed to working from home). What will be different? What will be the same? How will we communicate? How about those who now prefer to work from home?
As a leader, your team members will be looking to you for the answers to their questions. During transition, you can expect people to feel anxious, uncertain, confused, and fearful. As with many changes, it’s the unknown that is most difficult to cope with.
According to the late William Bridges (author and change management expert), during major transitions people want to know four basic answers regarding the change/transition:
Why are we making this change now?
• Be sure all leaders have a consistent message regarding how your organization will handle this latest announcement
o Emphasize safety and how your organization is addressing it
o Invite questions and concerns from all employees
Communicate often. Be willing to listen to the concerns of each employee; make yourself available to extend empathy and encouragement. Be sure to send messages in more than one format (email, town hall, team meetings, etc.).
Create a clear picture of how things will be different once everyone returns to work. What will remain the same as before? What will be different—and how? Who will be most directly impacted? Explain in as much detail as possible, all the “rules” of the new workplace.
People expect their leaders to have a plan and to be able to clearly articulate that plan
• What is the transition plan for everyone returning to the workplace?
• How will this new approach be better than before?
Probably top of mind for most employees is the question: “What part will I play?” or “Is there a part for me in this new workplace (post-Covid)?
Try to ease fears and concerns by allowing individuals to ask questions, express concerns and offer input to the transition plan for returning safely to work. Create excitement and celebrations for this next chapter in 2021.
It’s been a long and stressful Covid season. Be sure to step up as a leader during this current transition. For further reading, please see Transitions, William Bridges, https://www.amazon.com/Managing-Transitions-25th-anniversary Making/dp/0738219657/ref=sr_1_3?dchild=1&keywords=transitions+William+bridges&qid=1621825825&sr=8-3.
For more information contact Kathy Cooperman, KC Leadership Consulting, LLC, firstname.lastname@example.org, 1 (866) 303-1996 or (303) 522-2114.