Team leaders are preparing to bring their teams back into the office, and their primary concern is to lead their employees through this crisis with safety and composure at the forefront. During this time, there are a number of variables at play that can have a major impact on individuals workplace to workplace. This means that, right now, leaders are the key resources employees are looking toward to help them return cautiously and effectively, maintain their personal safety, and look out for their best interests and health moving forward. It’s a large task for leaders, but using the Crisis and Recovery Leadership competency model, it’s one that is possible and manageable.

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Facilitating the Return to the Workplace

More so than normal, leaders must be present, communicative, and strong in order to facilitate employees returning to the office. There may be an excess of caution, some nervousness, and some uncertainty as to how things will have changed in the wake of the pandemic.

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Before managers can effectively lead their teams, they need to take a moment to understand what’s ahead of them and the best way to address it. The Selection Report for the Crisis and Recovery Leadership job model details how an individual aligns with the core competencies required to successfully lead, while maintaining morale and productivity, especially when there are many lingering questions. The ability to anticipate and prepare for what’s in store will help leaders be more effective in a smooth transition back into the workplace. Important competencies that help employees feel safe and heard include:

  • Active Listening
  • Decisiveness
  • Communication
  • Planning
  • Priority Setting
  • Adaptability
  • Composure

Recovering from Crisis

Good crisis leaders use empathy, active listening, and communication to identify the best ways to help employees feel comfortable, safe, and heard upon their return. When leaders build strong, trusting relationships with their employees throughout the crisis, their team is more likely to help them iron things out and build new processes as things return to normal.

Recovery requires leaders to see what was working before that needs to remain, what no longer works and needs to be replaced, and what organically occurred that can help them in the future. It requires perceptiveness, problem solving, and action in order to make it happen. They need to be agile, perceptive, organized, and remain composed as things may not always go according to plan. The ability to be adaptive without hesitating to make key decisions makes for confident leadership that employees can turn to for guidance and support during stressful and ever-changing situations.

What If They Don’t Want to Return?

Understandably, there will be some employees who are uncomfortable with returning to the office. Perhaps they have small children and no child care has opened yet. Perhaps they are the sole caregiver to an elderly family member. Perhaps they themselves are high risk. Perhaps they simply do not feel safe returning to the workplace. There are valid reasons why people would want to opt out of returning from work-from-home, and those employees should be heard.

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Examine the policies your company has put in place for returning to the workplace. Is there an opt-out option available to employees? Are there alternate accommodations that can be made for those under extenuating circumstances? Right now, listening to the concerns of employees is of the utmost importance. Be sure that every individual feels heard, understood, and that an agreement can be reached that is acceptable and beneficial to everyone involved. Leaders may be the go-between in this case, where they act as advocates for employees, which means communication and negotiation skills are critical at this time.

What If Another Shutdown Happens?

One of the largest challenges of this moment is that things can change quickly, and with little warning. As some states begin to reopen, others are halting their reopening efforts, and some may be shutting down once again. The only certainty is that there is nothing to be certain about. Plans put in place today may no longer be the plan that works tomorrow. Be sure leaders understand every contingency plan, every alternate accommodations possible, and which scenarios lead to which response plans.

Communication will once again be a critical need as situations change and the rules and policies fluctuate to ensure the health and safety of employees. Be sure to inform employees every step of the way, let them know what to expect given each contingency and every level of warning should cases grow in their region. Do they know what happens if there’s a spike in cases or an outbreak in their region? Do they know what happens if the state reinstates a shutdown? Do they know what happens if things continue to improve? Open communication, answering questions, and keeping employees informed and in the loop will be the top priority during the next few months as things are in flux.

Knowing which competencies to lean on in an unpredictable and unprecedented crisis can be a considerable challenge, but by better understanding your leaders and their behavioral strengths can help your organization better facilitate and manage the transition bringing employees from work-from-home back into the workplace. For more information about the Caliper Profile and how it can help shape your crisis & recovery leadership strategy, reach out to our experts today to get started.

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