2020 has been a year that nobody could ever have predicted. It has been a year of uncertainty, lockdown and navigating the ‘new normal’ which has brought many challenges for organisations worldwide. In March 2020, UK businesses were forced to close their doors and working from home became the default position. Five months on we are now easing out of lockdown and looking to bring employees back to the office or explore new hybrid ways of working that bring together the best of home and office working practices. As employers consider their options, effectively prioritising employee engagement will be key to navigating our way towards a work environment that best meets both the desires of the business and its employees.
A recent article in Forbes magazine suggests we are likely to see enduring change in a number of areas including:
- corporate flexibility;
- our office set up and operations (social distancing, hygiene, temperature checking);
- home-ready working (technology and physical set-up);
- e-learning becoming the norm;
- business attire (acceleration in acceptance of casual attire); and
- video virtuosos (long term adoption of these new ways of communicating).
Now, more than ever, the importance of engagement and gathering feedback is crucial to the future success of the organisation. Collating employee feedback will help to create traction in planning and reactivating the future workplace, so that we don’t remain in a temporary state, immobilised by uncertainty. Granted some employers will have more flexibility than others in such decisions, but even the smallest bits of information relating to employee and customer preferences, concerns or restrictions will be instrumental in understanding and, reassuring those individuals of how you can reintegrate them into the workplace and the services you provide.
Of course, it’s been well publicised that for the many employees who have discovered the benefits of working at home such as, less travel, more flexibility and a better work life balance, they will want to try and retain some of those benefits in the long term. However, it’s not just about exploring alternatives for the future, organisations have a perfect opportunity now to also look back and learn how employees have viewed the response of the organisation to lockdown – what worked and what didn’t – the good, the bad and the ugly! It has been said that feedback is the breakfast of champions, and it would be naïve to believe that society will not face challenges of this magnitude in future, whether or not it comes in the form of a global pandemic or not, gathering feedback to ensure our contingency and disaster recovery plans are refined for future is a valuable exercise in itself.
Employers who are best prepared and are proactive in this approach will be in a better position to navigate the new and hopefully better normal. Investing time in surveying the workforce and conducting staff feedback forums and focus groups is the best way to solicit open and honest feedback from employees, before memories fade. A survey allows employers to gain insight, invite suggestions and develop involvement in decision making, helping to shape the future of the organisation, and embed a culture of collaboration and trust.