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Supporting your workforce through lockdown and beyond

Posted on 10 June 2021 by Felicity O'Shannassy

So we thought we had Covid under control. Confidence was starting to rebuild as we commenced returning to face-to-face meetings, working in the office at least for one or two days, eating out at our favourite restaurants and catching up with friends and family. As the epidemiologists had warned us we should not become complacent. Victoria then entered lockdown 4.0.

Outside of the national lockdown in 2020, Victorians have spent significantly more time in lockdown than any other state. It is inevitable that this has impacted confidence, workplace productivity and importantly mental health. What are four areas organisations can focus on to support their people and maintain productivity and confidence?

Wellbeing

It is well documented that stress and anxiety impact health and wellbeing, productivity and job satisfaction. It will be critical during and after lockdown, for leaders to continue to provide those critical and regular practices of engagement, maintaining connection, providing supporting mechanisms and flexibility. Anxious minds also like a plan. An important step organisations can take to help ease anxiety and provide focus for the future is to provide a clear and detailed plan to employees as to how their organisation will transition out of lockdown and how they will be working post pandemic.

Ways of Working

Many organisations say they are moving to new ways of working and for many that means a hybrid approach. For others depending on their industry, they cannot work virtually and or continue to work on the frontline under stress and uncertainty. How many organisations have genuinely considered the opportunity COVID has presented in challenging out dated assumptions regarding productivity, leadership, performance and culture? The organisations that will flourish are those that see the opportunity, leverage what was required in crisis but has worked well (e.g. faster decision making and adoption of change) and further develop those capabilities. They will also have, or be in the process of, designing a clear and detailed roadmap for their people as to how the post COVID workplace will evolve and what the destination will look like.

Purpose

Purpose provides stability and can connect people in a time when there is so much uncertainty. The pandemic provides an important opportunity to revisit purpose. Given COVID and how much the way we work has changed, does your organisation need to rethink its purpose, identity and the way you do business to be ready for the future? This also provides the opportunity to engage and connect your people in a positive future focused co design process.

Leadership

For leadership there is opportunity to build on the care, empathy and trust many demonstrated during lockdowns and embed bringing our “authentic selves” to the workplace longer term. In addition, leadership teams should take the time to learn from managing crisis and ensure they are better prepared in the future. Middle managers have also shown through the pandemic how important they are as the conduit for communication, change, culture and performance. There is opportunity now to review talent and succession planning to support, identify and develop those resilient leaders of the future who emerged out of a crisis.

The social and economic impact of the pandemic has and continues to be difficult and significant. We must find the positive and that has to be that it has provided all of us the opportunity to reconsider how we live, work and what is important, in ways we may never have without this experience.