Are you scared of returning to the office? You’re not alone. The fear factor of returning to work while the coronavirus pandemic is still unfolding should not be underestimated.
Employees are frightened of everything from their own personal safety to finding suitable summer arrangements for their children. Workers will be looking to human resources to help quell their fears. This is a time for human resources professionals to lean into their company’s culture and reaffirm the core values that will sustain it during this new normal.
The practice of Design Culture can help. EBI’s Human Resources team shares its list for free and easy ways to implement Design Culture at your workplace.
In her post, “Driving Humanity Back to Business with Design Culture,” Marti Kurland, EBI’s Leader of Global Design Culture, describes the practice as a cohesive organizational superpower. Design Culture is a blend of defining your organization and your core values and ensuring your environment matches that mission. Human resources is the key player in implementing Design Culture and engaging employees with its practice. As employees face their fears of returning to work, HR can look to Design Culture to guide them, just as EBI’s HR team has done. Here are five fresh and fun ways you can bring Design Culture to your office.
1. Positivity Matters
Every workday, EBI employees receive an inspirational message. This company-wide email initiative is part of a larger approach to keep employees engaged and happy. There are numerous health benefits to having a positive mindset:
The concepts of positivity, morale, and engagement don’t exist in silos. They are intertwined and are best activated with a heavy dose of empathy, says Julie Mulhern, Director of Human Resources at EBI.
ICYMI: Searching for more tips to boost employee culture following COVID-19? Check out this On Demand Webinar featuring timely and actionable solutions for redesigning your culture.
2. Huddle Up
Opening communication between employees, not just from a top-down approach, boosts morale. EBI has implemented bi-weekly all staff meetings and weekly EBI Chats, which are smaller, randomly selected breakout groups. These sessions are all held remotely and have one major focus – to respond to employees’ needs for open, transparent communication.
“Transparency is essential at a time when employees need compassion and to trust their leaders,” says Mulhern. “Remaining positive and helping mitigate fears by continually educating staff on the state of the business, economy, and other details lessens employees’ anxiety about what is going on around them.”
While these chats were created and implemented as a Design Culture response to the remote working environment of COVID-19, there are discussions to keep the chats going once workers come back to the office. Of course, permanent remote workers would continue to participate as well.
3. Find the Fun
Employees will not be returning to the same office they left before the pandemic. Some familiar faces may be missing because of layoffs, and safety gear, structures, and protocols may feel imposing. Employees may find the physical distancing frustrating as they can’t mix and mingle with co-workers in the kitchen or break room like they used to. All of this contributes to employees’ fear and anxieties. It will be important to find ways to make work fun and distract employees from this new reality.
A weekly email with tips, games, brain teasers, crafts, and fun things employees can do during their breaks or at home can lift their spirits. Just this week, EBI team members received links to free fitness app trials, a scavenger hunt download for kids, and instructions on where to find no cost live virtual concerts.
These small Design Culture gestures show you care about employees as people, not just as workers.
4. Keep Your Regularly Scheduled Programming
Keeping your regularly scheduled employee engagement programs is critical to re-establishing a sense of community and keeping a familiar part of your culture intact. EBI’s pillar programs, like our social committee and book club, still regularly meet during the coronavirus, although our focus has temporarily shifted.
For example, the book club now reads books about positivity and growth mindset. Not only do participating employees get to socialize with colleagues and friends in these clubs as we normally would, we are also innovating and brainstorming together. Continuing your pillar programs once you return to the office will also help employees who are still working remotely feel part of the team.
5. Encourage Feedback
As with any crisis that creates a sense of urgency, there are people who see an opportunity to innovate. Give them a voice. During the pandemic, EBI debuted an internal email address where employees could submit tips, ideas, client leads, and engagement strategies. This opened the door for all employees, regardless of title or position, to put a personal stake into the success of our company.
This strategy can also be used with great success after employees return to work. Once workers experience the new safety procedures and protocols you rolled out, solicit their feedback through a survey or email. Ask them what works, what doesn’t, and what improvements or adjustments they might make. This is another Design Culture strategy to help employees feel heard and feel they matter.
As this return to work evolution begins, we are learning how to navigate this challenging environment just like everyone else. We will use Design Culture as our framework to make positive decisions that reassure our employees and help mitigate fear and anxiety about coming back to the office.
Writer. Digital marketer. Storyteller. An award-winning writer and editor, Tricia O'Connor is the Marketing Content Manager at EBI. Tricia worked as a broadcast and print journalist for nearly two decades writing and producing programming for high-profile networks like ESPN Radio, History Channel, and Hallmark Channel, as well as contributing editorial work to publications nationwide. Tricia joined the EBI marketing team in 2019 and is responsible for content strategy, development, and engagement. Tricia earned a master's degree in journalism from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University and is a proud undergraduate alumna of Wheaton College in Massachusetts.