Inside FMCG: Make it work - Michelle Gibbings

In this article for Inside FMCG, I outline how to manage your workforce in a post-lockdown world.

With COVID-19 has come challenge and opportunity for workplaces, and as you look into the future what do you want to leave behind and carry forward in terms of how you work?

Answering this question is important on two fronts. Firstly, it’s too soon to go back to pre-pandemic ways of working, and secondly, COVID has accelerated workplace change with much of it here to stay.

This process starts with identifying what’s working for you, your team and organisation. Think about what you have enjoyed, the benefit received and why you want it to continue. Write these down and reflect on why it matters. Next, look at what hasn’t worked and why. Identifying the root cause is important to determine if that new way of working should be disbanded or just needs to be tweaked.

It can be helpful to invite your team members to participate in this review, so you get their perspective on the workplace. Doing this also helps to build their buy-in and commitment to future change.

As part of this process, recognise that the level of adjustment and adaptation required across workplaces has and will continue to be mixed.

For some employees, the rapid move to working from home has been successful – with less commuting, better work-life balance, and access to effective technology to support productivity. For others, it has been stressful as they juggle home-schooling, have no defined workspace, nor the technology needed to work effectively. As well, for people who draw energy from connecting with colleagues, they are missing the office banter and casual conversations.

These impacts translate into variations in productivity and engagement. Consequently, it’s essential to recognise each team member’s needs and to understand what they need to be at their best at work.

Many organisations are now using the term ‘work from anyone’; signifying that the traditional model of sourcing employees who are willing to be locally based or travel frequently has shifted. This opens organisations to a broader talent pool.

For employees, it also means they are no longer geographically hamstrung from applying for roles that are based overseas.

As well, some people are keen to get back into the office, and others less so. Examine your workforce and roles to determine the options and flexibility that can continue.

Working from home is here to stay, but connection and time with team members and colleagues will always be necessary.

Humans are tribal creatures, who are hard-wired for connection. Part of the joy and happiness that people experience at work comes from the banter and chats they have with colleagues. Nothing can replace the casual corridor conversation or chat in the tea-room.

Recognise that not everything can be done remotely (or done as effectively remotely). Leaders will want to consider where face to face sessions are more productive and effective, and where remote will work just as well.

Leadership matters no matter the working environment – be it the office or home. The best leaders appreciate this and are shifting and elevating their leadership style to suit these new circumstances. They understand that in times of challenge and uncertainty they need to provide more, not less leadership.

People want to feel they matter and to know they are valued. Leaders should continue to set regular times to check in with their team. These check-ins aren’t just about how tasks are progressing; they’re about finding out how the team member is going on an emotional and mental health level too.

Central to creating a healthy environment is the relationship the leader has with their team members. Successful relationships are underpinned by psychological safety. This is an environment where people are comfortable to share what is working or not working for them, how they are feeling and to be their authentic self.

It helps if you, as the leader, role model self-care behaviours. Encourage your team members to take care of their physical and mental health. For example, taking regular breaks during the day, noticing and managing workplace stress, and having a safe space for your team to talk about their mental health and well-being.

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