It is clear to see that Covid19 has had a great impact on both our personal and professional lives especially those in leadership positions. In my previous article I talked about effective leadership during covid19 lockdown. As the rate of transmission amongst people reduces, governments are now urging citizens to return to work. This means we are now transitioning into another stage of dealing with this pandemic, therefore I thought it will make sense to write a kind of follow-up article focusing on effective leadership and navigating your team back into ‘the new normal’ work routine.
Returning to work post lockdown is not as straightforward as it sounds. Being a leader is generally challenging so being a leader during these uncertain and unprecedented times, it is even more challenging trying to guide and navigate your delegates to get back into the groove of things. Although there have been various pandemics of different magnitude in history, covid19 came with its own unique sets of challenges that we are yet to fully understand.
As a leader, your team will be looking up to you to guide them and ensure their safety as they return to the workplace. The first difficult question a leader must consider is “when is it safe to reopen or return to a normal working environment”. This question does not have only one straight answer. In fact, there are several factors that need to be considered before an establishment can reopen, extend their services, or start trading again. These include ‘is it safe to reopen, what are the current policies that may affect your business, does your business structure allow room for social distancing and so on.
These factors and there impact also depend greatly on the field you are in and who your target audience/customers are.
The first step towards reopening is to conduct a survey/assessment of your working environment to give you an overview on the certain changes that needs to be done to ensure your working environment is going to be safe not just for your customers but also for your team. Additionally, as a leader you must ensure you keep yourself and your team well informed about the frequent changes surrounding requirements/policies that may affect your workplace from a local, national, and global level. An example of this is the requirement of face coverings as a protective method to fight covid19. For many months there was constant debate about the effectiveness/requirement of face coverings however after evidence showed face coverings were effective, many places have now made it mandatory to wear a face covering in certain areas like public transport, hospitals and indoor public places.
The next important factor a leader must consider is to ensure all necessary preventative methods to ensure the safety and protection of everyone is addressed. Such as workspace setting restructuring to ensure social distancing through signage, divider panels, face masks, PPE, split breaks and restrictions in certain areas like kitchen/communal areas. Further protective methods to adopt include the use of hand sanitisers, hand washing, temperature checking, testing and to have a contingency plan if any member of your team is tested positive for coronavirus such as getting other staff tested, getting staff to self-isolate as required by the government, deep cleaning the work space and even closing down your establishment if need be until it is safe again.
If your workspace is not big enough to fit all staff with the required social distancing requirement, then you can consider changing the work rota to accommodate staggering shifts so that some staff can work remotely some days and in the workspace for other days.
Another important step is to communicate effectively with your team and ensure their individual needs/situations are taken into consideration. Staff who fall under the vulnerable category might be safer working remotely from home as well as staff with young children that are out of school due to covid19.
Effective communication plays a great role towards effective leadership. We are all facing unprecedented time and situations we have not dealt with before. This means we are all learning as we go and being a leader in these times can be very challenging, so it is important you work closely with your team, encourage and welcome input from team members, show compassion and understanding, take individual needs into consideration, communicate with your team members before making changes or implementing certain requirements and ensure your team members are also up-to-date with changes that may affect the workplace or affect them personally.
There is no manual on being a perfect leader especially during challenging times like this and it is important for leaders to also remember that being a leader does not mean you know it all or are expected to know everything. We all need support sometimes when things get overwhelming. Therefore, it is beneficial to network and work with external agencies to help you become the best leader you can be.