Updated: Mar 10
We're not quite thee yet but the not so distant future indicates that your employees might be able to get back to work by September. Is your business ready to deal with high sensitive employees and potential conflicts arising from the different opinions about lockdown, the rules and the whole pandemic?
Many employees if not all will be used to their home environment and even though eager to return to the office for some peace from home distractions, effective communication skills could be forgotten.
Covid pandemic has seen people reacting to it in many different way. If you did have conflicts in your workplace before we were ordered to work from home these will come back and maybe even stronger than before.
Not being able to compensate the negativity of the lockdowns and changes to our lives will mean that people won't have much to talk about. Nor can you order people to leave their home lives at home. This is simply impossible and any manager or business owner demanding this will lose. We're not machines. We're emotional human beings living through unprecedented times.
What potential conflicts are you looking for?
Being used to regular distractions
Working from home is not easy. With the washing in the sink, mess left from the children, dog that needs to go out, cat running across the computer, homeschooling children and their never ending questions and demands...Quite a different way of working and concentrating than you have in a professional environment suitable for distraction free performance. Experts say that it was 66 days to form a new habit. Working from home exceeds 66 days so any habit your employees build since working from home will take around 66 days to undo. Therefore understanding and supportive management is required. My question is Do your Managers and team leaders have enough knowledge when it comes to People and Communication Skills? Because
apart from re-building working habits you're faced with another issues that is to arise:
Different approaches to lockdown rules
You can choose to ignore this issue but it won't go away. Because of the fear factor surrounding the pandemic and the virus itself there will be people with strong emotions attached to their opinions on following the rules. Then there will be those who felt that they can assess their own risk and mend the rules to suit their lifestyles. And then you might have someone who completely ignored the rules. Due to lack of other topics to discuss as the pandemic has been at the center of every news feeds, adverts and discussion and any other more positive topics like holidays and parties long forgotten it will be extremely hard to avoid disclosing individual approach to the pandemic. And because if high emotional charge, this can massive issues within the office if left unresolved potentially damaging to your business.
Precaution is better than cure ( and in business cheaper too)
So what can you do to prevent or at least minimise the almost inevitable conflict?
First you need to acknowledge that this is highly possible. If you speak to your employees on regular basis you might know their individual approach and where the potential conflict might arise. Good, non judgmental listening skills are a key to any difficult situation. Depending on the size of the team you might have to appoint someone who can be 'the go to' person with pandemic related issues.
What will also help you is to pre-empty any arising issues at a meeting or training. Making others aware of different opinions yet staying non judgmental. Avoid making assumptions ( different people will have different reason for their actions which might not be fully known to the rest of the team). Understanding the effects of gossip or assumptions can have on the individual. One question I like to ask in situations like this is "How would you feel if you found out that you're the main subject of someone's counselling session" I personally would be horrified.
Finally if you can't or don't want to have this open conversation you can always get a third party to assess potential conflict, offer training and support.
Get in touch to arrange a virtual meeting to discuss how our training can help you to minimise post-lockdown conflict