Updated: Jun 8
Over the last week I’ve seen an increase in posts about ‘when this is all over, then …’, and I’ve added a few of these myself, like the first people I’ll see, the trips I’ll take, even what I’m looking forward to on my first visit back at the gym. And whilst it’s lovely to think of all the things that we can do when lockdown finishes, we should let this stop us from focusing on what we can do now to make a difference.
Now this isn’t a post about how you should be writing a novel, losing half of your body weight, learning to play an instrument, learn a language or paint a masterpiece, unless of course any of those things are what you want to do rather than feeling you have to do them. I think the most important thing we can do at the moment is just to be kind to ourselves.
But, for the HR Community, there are things we can start doing and conversations that we can start having now, so that ‘when this is all over, then we can change the world of work for the better for our people’.
Celebrate getting through the week. Celebrate the most creative/innovative home workspace. Celebrate the best pyjamas. Celebrate the best idea of the week. Celebrate small wins, big wins, the best out of office emails, the best co-worker (child) of the week. Celebrate the best playlist or song of the week. Celebrate getting through a zoom call without having played video call bingo. Celebrate best lunch ideas.
Celebrate anything, have some fun with it and when you’re used to celebrating, keep it going when you get back to ‘work’. Have a welcome back party. Find any excuse to celebrate, even if you don’t feel like celebrating, we all have a lot to be grateful for.
Start getting and then keep getting feedback
Ideally speak to your people instead of sending a survey, although a survey could help you reach a lot more people and give you some great data, but don’t rely solely on surveys when it comes to feedback.
One to one conversations, group engagement workshops, a conversation during team meetings or over coffee, it’s all useful insight.
Start to find out what’s working, what’s not, what your people would like to keep, what they would like to stop, and what they would like to change.
It’s likely that their answers to these questions will change a lot over the next few weeks and months, but if you stay focused on the questions during the good days and the bad days, you can get a truer picture of how everyone is feeling instead of a rose tinted glasses view and a one-time survey.
And then keep asking the questions when ‘normality’ resumes, in whatever guise that may look like.
Flexibility is key, for the now and the future. More and more people are wanting flexibility in their work lives and in the current situation it’s needed now more than ever.
Allow your people to work during the hours that are most productive for them. That might be 5am or 10pm, let it flow, let it flex. Be flexible with hours, with outputs, with meetings, with time, and in whatever way works best for your people. Perhaps lunchtime isn’t the best time for a call if kids, parents, partners or housemates are all going to be having a break at the same time and noise levels will increase. Or, maybe it’s the best time if teenagers and neighbours are going to switch off to eat and the internet speed will increase.
Flex will be different for each of us, allow it to happen.
And when this is all over, then find out what ongoing flex could look like for your people. Because we’re all proving that it can work. And what’s more we are proving that it can work during a global pandemic, so just imagine how it could work without this looming over us!
I’ve always said that most of the ideas and creativity and innovation lies with our people and not the select group of ‘creatives’ that organisations select as the idea generators. I have been super impressed with the ways in which people have been creative with their time, their space, problem solving, communication, having fun, exercising, motivating kids and teams and family.
Creativity is more than a job title, we are capable of being creative when we have the freedom to be creative. And with this new-found ‘freedom’ our people are creating in ways we would never have imagined before all of this.
So, when all of this is over, then allow your people to maintain creativity, to generate ideas, and, to test some of this thinking before stamping on it with a no. You never know what might work once you give it a try.
Who’d have thought that you could get all of your people working from home in less than a week with the systems and infrastructure to support them and keep things going?
Have some fun
Don’t get swamped in the seriousness of what’s happening around us. It’s hard and its tough and its challenging, but we can have some fun. Maybe not all day every day, but let’s dress up for video calls, let’s have a pyjama day for charity, let’s do a group bake off, each of us in our kitchens following the same recipe and seeing who the winner is. Let’s have quizzes, let’s have dance offs, let’s do exercise together, or breathe together, or sing together, or laugh together, or draw together, or whatever takes your fancy.
And, when all of this is over, let the fun continue, on your time, not that of your people. Because the teams that pay together, stay together (or maybe not, but let’s have some fun in the meantime)
Don’t overtalk, but talk. I spoke to someone on Monday who is sick of talking. She’s having to be on morning calls, at 8:30 everyday and then 5pm at night. Then team meetings, management meetings, then catch ups, then briefings, then check ins and in between all of this, trying to juggle her three young children, her home, her energy and her mood. She’s talked out, she’s zoomed out, she feels like a slave to her laptop, and she can’t talk anymore. And, this isn’t a life-saving, world changing organisation, the mass of talking isn’t helping.
Someone else I was talking to on Tuesday lives alone, she likes living alone, and yet she’s being contacted daily, and sometimes several times a day, by people checking in on her. She’s fine. And she’s realised it’s not her that needs to talk, but those around her.
So talk, keep communication open, but give people time and chance to breathe, to gather their thoughts and to add some value.
It’s good to talk, but it’s better when talking adds value and meaning. If you’re talking for the sake of talking, stop. And when this is all over, then assess what communication is vital, what’s a nice to have and what needs to stop.
Don’t Stop Asking People How They Are, How They Really Are
Move away from the ‘how are you?’, ‘are you ok?’ type questions and focus instead on the energy levels, emotions, feelings and mood of your people. If you need suggestions on the type of questions to ask, click here for one of our original ebooks .
And then when this is all over, don’t stop asking. Being open and honest about how we really feel helps us process this better, it helps us find solutions and ways to take action, and its good for our wellbeing. In fact its better than good, its vital.
Focus On Outcomes, Not Hours At A Desk (or the sofa, or dining table, or bed or even sun lounger)
For years I’ve been asking. That we focus more on outcomes and outputs than on hours worked. And this needs to be the case now more than ever. If someone can get done all that they need to do in an hour and then spend the rest of the day with family, or exercising, or resting, or whatever they need to do, let it happen.
If someone wants to work all weekend and take all week off, let it happen.
I’ll caveat this one by saying that if productivity and outputs fall at this time, let it happen. This is not normal working. This is working during a global pandemic and if today isn’t going to be productive day, take the day off, rest, recharge and try again tomorrow.
And when all of this is over, then speak to your people about outputs instead of hours. Just because someone is the first one in and last one hour, it does not mean they are the most productive and they should not be used as the ‘model employee’.
Focus on outcomes and outputs, reward for outcomes and outputs, don’t reward based on the number of hours that someone has their bum in a seat.
Pay Your People Fairly – All Of Your People
Pay is always a contentious issue and at this time it remains the same. I’ve spoken to people, HR, and leaders over recent weeks and al with different approaches to pay.
HR have been trying to set and maintain a fair pay approach, this hasn’t always been taken on board.
Some people are being furloughed and not having salary topped up, some people are. Some people are having wage cuts applied, some are not. Some people are taking unpaid leave, others are not. This is just one organisation! There isn’t a fair approach. There doesn’t seem to be a reason to the lack of consistency and it can’t be understood or communicated properly by anyone. In reality, someone has looked at a spreadsheet, make a decision about who falls into what ‘category’ and it’s been rolled out. It’s not fair, it’s not consistent, and it’s not right.
And this is all before we start talking equal pay, or dealing with the gender pay gap, or minimum wage, or living wage.
Is money tight for businesses now? Yes. Is it tight for our people now? Yes.
So when all of this is over, then it’s time to look at your pay and your benefits and your total reward, and make it fair, for everyone.
Keep Putting Your People First!
Put your people first now. Treat your people as people. Acknowledge that your people are the most important part of your business. Treat your people as individuals. Put the welfare, wellbeing, skills, growth and pay, at the top of your priority list. Recognise their efforts their current challenges and their wins.
If you haven’t already, acknowledge that your people strategy is your business strategy.
And when this is all over, then take the time to show your people just how much you value them and that you will ensure they are top of your business agenda.
Kelly is Founder of The Chrysalis Crew and a Global Empowerment Coach for Leaders and HR Professionals. She leads the crew with an open heart, an open mind and has the courage to challenge the status quo and do things differently so that we can change the world of work. Her work with HR leaders at kellyswingler.com helps HR leaders put themselves first and achieve more by working less - anything is possible.