Managing your employees office return

By Matt Hayes | 25th March 2021

Taking care of your employees

Your role as the chief empathy officer

There’s a quote that goes, there are decades where nothing happens and weeks where decades happen. The last 12 months feels a bit like that.

As we move towards the positive news from the government of a steady release from lockdown coupled with the stellar efforts of the NHS to facilitate the vaccine rollout nationally, at pace, there are opportunities for growth and now is the time to invest in people.

As we start to give the call, ‘we’re heading back into the office’ in whatever structure that is remote v office-based, how is that affecting your employees? Some have been craving the human connection and sense of belonging that might have been lost during lockdowns, whereas others have found a balance in the diversity of working patterns, that previously hadn’t been available.

People are feeling a certain way and have various expectations. It’s important for the employer to figure out what they are and how they can adapt to retain productive and motivated talent and create a culture where people and business thrive.

Leadership matters

Your people depend on your leadership now, more than ever. Employees are looking to you for direction and clarity, and to fulfil their emotional needs through your actions and communication. It’s vital for leaders to be both chief executive officer and chief empathy officer, as you navigate your people and business through the uncertain time ahead.

If the global pandemic has taught us anything, it’s is that today’s currency is trust. How do you, as an employer, establish trust with your valued people as we start to return to the office?

  1. Be empathetic and present

Take the time to listen. Strike the balance between what you know and what you have yet to learn or understand. It’s important to keep the communication lines open. Ask questions and don’t be afraid to approach challenging topics. It’s okay to not know all the answers and to ask people for their thoughts and suggestions. Understand concerns and deliver reassurance that the wellbeing of your people is your priority. When you’re present, be present. Be open and make yourself accessible by being present and available.

  1. Be authentic and inspire resilience

Leading with your humanity will engage your employees. Communicating authentically, whether it’s sharing stories of video calls being interrupted by your children or valuable support avenues for managing anxiety, and showing that you’re human, will inspire trust and loyalty. Inspire resilience in your employees by reminding them that in these challenging times it’s important to have fun and be a part of that fun.

One of our values is balance. We laugh, have fun, make people feel good and share the joy because being happy is good for everyone.

  1. Be flexible

Greater communication between employers and employees, which has led to improved dialogue, greater motivation, and higher productivity, is perhaps a surprising outcome of enforced remote working, over the last 12 months. What this has highlighted is that your people can be trusted to work productively and efficiently off site. Offering flexibility on a longer-term basis will build mutual trust and loyalty. Flexibility means different things for different businesses, but the meaning is in the name. Flexible. Consider offering alternative working solutions that vary from flexible shift patterns to working from home.

  1. Lead with purpose

With so much happening, and at pace, businesses must remain true to their purpose. People who are inspired by a shared purpose, will be determined to achieve it. This in turn, will positively impact productivity and performance, which takes care of profit. You set the tone and direction for your teams and business, therefore remind people of the journey you’re on together, and the part they play in achieving shared success.

  1. Show vulnerability

The traits that leaders express with relative comfort are that of strength and certainty. To connect with your employees, showing that you are in fact human and have experienced similar challenges and fears over the last year, displays strength and builds trust. There are many examples of prominent CEO’s speaking with care and compassion about the impact of Covid on their people. That’s because these leaders understand the value of their evolving role to support employees’ wellbeing through empathy and understanding.

  1. Say thank you

Showing appreciation and gratitude to those around you might seem like a natural action. However, in our busy lives, it can often go unsaid or taken for granted that people realise how thankful you are. Leaders have the influence to highlight the good work and efforts of those around you. Sharing gratitude will elevate people’s moods, boost collective enthusiasm and show people that they are valued.

Consistent communication

Underpinning these points is clear and consistent communication. The more you communicate, the better the lines of communication will be between you and your employees. Your people will feel listened to and trust that you have their best interests at heart. Regular communication provides clarity of message and the more clarity and reassurance people have, the more engaged they will feel.

Take care of yourself

There’s a lot on your shoulders as a leader and it can be a daunting prospect. There are leadership traits and skills of the future CEO that you’re learning. You’re dealing with the personal and professional impact of Covid-19 and you’re managing your employees’ expectations and wellbeing.  That’s why your physical and mental health are equally important (and sometimes neglected). Take care of yourself, mentally and physically to be the best for your people, your business and the wider community.

There’s no denying that the office environment has an important role to play in people’s happiness – the personal training and development, the sense of belonging, the communication, the face to face interaction. Reassure people, who have safety reservations but want to return, of the benefits and that at the centre of your priorities is their wellbeing.

That said, the time has come where the benefits of flexible and remote working have been realised and practically delivered. Open your mind to avenues of change to your people’s working environment that would add value to them, and in the long run – to you and your organisation.

At Devonshire Hayes we live by five guiding principles: Love what you do, empathy for everyone, customer above self-gain, together does better and we choose balance. These values ring true now more than ever and are reflective of how we operate with each other and our customers.

We work in partnership with you to support your people and scale your business sustainably through talent. Get in touch and speak to one of our trusted advisors today.