Not every change is an improvement, but every improvement is a change” – Eliezer Yudofsky.
Many of my clients are currently supporting their teams to manage expectations and anxiety about returning to work.
Feelings are mixed, some people are chomping at the bit, desperate to reclaim some semblance of order to their working life, whilst others are reticent, if not resistant to further change; having carved out an acceptable work life balance for themselves and their family and who can blame them?
Most organisations are in favour of introducing a hybrid way of working, others are insisting that everyone come back to the office full time, whilst some occupations do not have the luxury of choice.
Navigating life in a world where the only certainty is uncertainty has forced us to get comfortable with being uncomfortable, whilst reimagining and repurposing our lives beyond recognition, and it’s exhausting!
To put it frankly, people are suffering from ‘Change Fatigue’ both on a personal and organisational level, and yes ‘Change Fatigue’ is a real thing!
Often businesses become fixated on the detail when implementing change in the workplace, which is why it is important to remember that the past 18 months has taken its toll on the nations mental health.
A recent poll run by YouGov for the BBC, https://tinyurl.com/uxmnwu68 found the following:
- A total of 70% of 1,684 people polled predicted that workers would “never return to offices at the same rate”.
- The majority of workers said that they would prefer to work from home either full-time or at least some of the time.
- Half of 530 senior leaders also surveyed said that workers staying at home would adversely affect both creativity and collaboration – against just 38% of ordinary people.
So, how can you support your employees to navigate change fatigue, and create stability and unity when everyone returns to the office:
- First and foremost, it’s important to remember that change is emotional and unsettling. As human beings we are hardwired to defend and protect whatever provides us with stability and comfort.
- Don’t fall into the trap of assuming that you know what your employees want instead, try to understand what your teams need.
- Avoid presenting your teams with a fait accompli, consult and gather feedback so you can understand the collective and individual concerns of your teams
- Provide a safe space for employees to give feedback/express their concerns without recrimination. Remember the end of furlough and the current economic climate is creating anxiety resulting in employees feeling that they need to be compliant, or risk lose their jobs.
- Communicate, communicate, communicate; – set out your vision for change in the workplace, with the caveat that you want your employees to engage with and play an active part in the process.
- Ensure that your teams understand the why behind the proposed new working arrangements
- Evaluate and recalibrate; – change is a continuum and the direction of travel may well alter, especially in these uncertain times. Be sure to communicate that nothing is set in stone and that you are open to making adjustments to ensure that the proposed change works for everyone.
- Find ways to celebrate the hard work and resilience of your teams during lockdown.
- Create opportunities for your teams to reconnect by suggesting that the whole team come into the office on the same day at least twice a month.
- Organise an away day for the team that allows your teams to reflect, reset and celebrate their successes. This will help to restore harmony and hope for the future of the team and the business.