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“Return to work” evoked a strong reaction in our newsletter last week 

“For many, home working throughout has meant working differently over the last year, with the output that has been immense. We have worked harder and longer, than any other period of our professional careers. And I know we are not alone in this. Teams across all sectors have worked relentlessly from home – and so the messaging around ‘returning’ to work – insinuating that this last year has been a breeze, feels insensitive.”

This invaluable feedback highlights the enormous sensitivity, not only in the language that we use but also in how it is said, how it is used, the timescales that are given and the importance that needs to be given to the employee voice along with the other enablers.

“Return to work” can mean so much or so little depending on whether you have been a key worker, on furlough, made redundant, a home worker, or home schooling. In addition, the flexibility that is being offered or not, the context, the timescale are key to how people will react or respond.

Thank you to everyone who joined us. Here are some hints and tips that were shared in the Greater Birmingham conversations on Wednesday 31st:

Adopt positive language such as “moving forward to ….” “ transition forward….”

Use Appreciative Inquiry techniques, adopting positivity to build on success, best practice ….

Avoid the words “back,” “return” – there are so many changes that going back, or return are far from today’s reality for many.

Use of the terminology “workspace” to describe the numerous options that may be available ie home, office, abroad…..

“A video for shielders to welcome them. It was emailed out last week so they could view it to see what we have put in place to ensure we are all covid safe.”

Flexibility is key going forward. Recruiters report that next to salary this is now the most important factor. Applicants are refusing to consider roles that don’t offer flexible locations and working patterns.

Include and involve staff to develop solutions for flexible work patterns. First provide staff with:

Clear expectations and boundaries in terms of the start and finish times to provide cover for what is needed.

Outline the requirements to be available for meetings, training, collaboration….

Provide clear expectations about accessibility and service offer for customers and staff, regular deadlines to be achieved and ways of working.

With this clarity, encourage staff to develop solutions for how they will make this work for your business, including holiday and sickness cover and out of hours working to fit their routine.

An example shared was: “we want to be as flexible as possible and think a set of principles will help support the health and wellbeing of our staff – core hours 10-4pm, avoid meetings between 12pm-2pm, have an agenda if meetings are over 45mins.”

Provide as much notice as you can, many companies appear to be giving a 3 month notice. The shorter the time period the more resistance you will receive. People have experienced significant changes in life style, routines and patterns. Some may have lost loved ones, others will still be recovering from the virus. The majority need time to prepare emotionally and pragmatically for a change of location and working pattern.

Some will be thrilled to have the routine of going to work and sharing their day in the company of their colleagues.

The CIPD have a wealth of insights for Hybrid working and these can be found here.

Take time to check in, to understand how people are, for example:

  • Some “managers check in with their teams, rating how they are feeling from 1-10, they assess and see if any individuals require additional support or engagement.”
  • In team meetings:” beware of focus on sharing ‘what’s gone well’, it means that when people are not having a good time they’re reluctant to raise it…and the check in process then feels false and insincere…”
  • “Spend one minute breathing and calming ourselves then 1 minute breathing and thinking about our team.”
  • “ Remember to provide a technique for staff who staff feel more comfortable posting comments and questions anonymously. We ask for feedback in the chat, and also send out a post-meeting link to a form where they can leave anonymous feedback if they prefer.”
  • “A question we asked at recent team meeting: as King or Queen what are the three things they would change or improve? This encouraged some interesting conversations.”
  • “I often run a 1 item session where I ask people to talk about 1 item that they cherish. The stories that colleagues have bring out shared interests, aids understanding and can be really emotional. The stories continue to surprise, delight and humble me. They are amazing sessions to be part of.”

What about induction?

  • “I have held “talk about nothing” hours in my team as I have a new team and it gives them the opportunity to get to know about each other and not talk about work.”
  • “We’re planning to produce a film where each SMT member, representatives from key depts like HR and Finance and Comms provide an introduction.”
  • “We have recently introduced a virtual coffee morning once a month after they have completed their induction – this is done on a cohort by cohort basis to understand how their first month has gone, what ideas they have etc.”
  • “I created ‘spotlight on’ pages for each team member that had a picture, a brief career summary and a fun ‘3 things I love’ section so we could get to know each other personally a bit.”

Look out in a future newsletter, for the amazing catalyst for these conversations, provided by our co-founder John Travers, who shared the insights from NHS Staff Survey results.

Contact Fiona Anderson, Steering Group Member, Founder of and founder of My Change Expert and valuingYOU for further details, fiona.anderson@valuingyou.co.uk


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