When COVID first hit in March of 2020, many of my 1-1 contractor clients had to adjust the way they worked—and fast.
The good news is that because they had operating manuals and staffing programs in place, it was just a matter of some tweaking of procedures and training which enabled their businesses to continue on pretty well, especially compared to their competitors who were lacking systems to lean on.
Yes, even though it was far from business as usual they actually continued to grow their business in those crazy times and they were able to switch to remote work as seamlessly as possible.
Two years later, putting political views aside, it appears COVID is less problematic at the time of this writing… but who knows? For example, there’s still a need for some level of PPE but it’s not as extreme. Some people are returning to the office, part-time at least. The one thing I know is there is no returning to “the way things used to be.”
Typically, clients will ask me, “Do you think COVID is gone for good?”
I’ll respond with a story. Yes, that’s what consultants do. “When I was a boy, I lived by the ocean and I didn’t learn how to swim in a pool. I learned how to swim in the ocean. And as I was climbing out of the ocean and I could see the shore, a wave would drag me back out. That’s what these waves of COVID look like. We need to learn how to go with the tide.”
So what is the new normal? When it comes to being in the office at least, it’s most likely going to be a hybrid solution where people are still able to work from home at least part of the time. The question is, how do you make that work?
Here are 7 things you’ll need to consider.
- Technology. If it’s not already, everything should be cloud-based so staff can access what they need to do their jobs as long as they are at a computer. There also should be an easy way for people to communicate with each other. There are so many great tools like text, Slack®, and even through software. Most great software is allowing for remote work and hybrid work.
- Accountability. If you had people on staff whose shoulder you had to look over all the time, it might be time to replace them with someone who is more motivated and self-responsible. Working from home requires a high level of accountability and a person who believes that when they are “at work,” they are working—regardless of where that is. Yes, again technology helps a lot here.
- Flexibility. I believe that some in-office attendance is a good idea to maintain the culture. The hybrid model makes it a little easier to leave because they don’t have the day-to-day contact. On the other hand, the ability for people to work from home sometimes opens up the talent pool to stay-at-home moms or others who need or want that flexibility. There are pros and cons so you have to figure out what is right for your own company.
- Setting Aside Judgments. This is a good time to possibly set aside your own beliefs. Why? Because the only beliefs that matter are what your customers and staff believe. I had my clients go VERY visual at the height of COVID to demonstrate to their customers what great lengths they were going to help keep them safe in their homes. It became a great differentiator. The best of the companies practiced this approach to safety 1-1 and in never-ending meetings. There were and probably still are serious HR issues that supersede what you might feel. Those too have to be respected.
- Advocacy. It may be time to reinforce your commitment to staff that even in these complex times they are still building a career. If you can’t walk around and see people in-person, hop on a video call where you can see their face, and ask them three questions: 1) What’s going right? 2) What’s going wrong? 3) What do I need to know right now? Their responses and the look on their faces will give you a clue as to where their head is.
- Consistency. If you’ve built a great culture and you’ve managed to continue to reinforce it even with people working from home, you probably don’t have to worry too much about “the great resignation.” But if you haven’t had regular meetings where you read a page or two of the manuals out loud and things seems to be falling apart, this may be why. Get the meetings and the reading of the manuals aloud back into place and watch how fast things come back together.
- Adjust. COVID is fluid and that means you must adjust your procedures (how much PPE, what level?), and your messaging to match (detailed videos that demonstrate what you’re doing and why). This way your company—the ship sailing that fickle sea—will be able to go where it needs to go and serve customers and staff, safely and successfully.
I don’t know about you but I’m done with COVID but I too know I have to keep adjusting. My hope for me and for all of you is that COVID is done with all of us.