5 Ways to Navigate Changes in the Workplace This Pandemic
The fatigue from the different ‘phases’ of restrictions in Singapore during the Covid-19 pandemic has hit many companies hard.
Whether all Singaporeans are required to work from home, or whether you must follow a ‘team A/B’ system, the constant need to switch between different working modes can be tiring. However, these changes are also opportunities for the company to re-evaluate its structure and consider whether workflows can be streamlined. Here are five ways to navigate changes in the workplace during this pandemic!
1. Reduce Redundancy
In a work-from-home environment, the lines between work and personal life become blurred; there is no longer a time you are ‘dismissed’ from work, and you may work overtime to complete your tasks. In some cases, because of the convenience of meeting online, there are so many meetings to attend that you do not even have the time to complete your work. With more tasks fighting for your attention, it may be difficult to prioritise.
It is important to ‘declutter’ to reduce your attention on unnecessary tasks and focus on the important ones. This will also reduce your stress from the many changes you have to adapt to in the pandemic. For leaders, the following questions will help you to consider some areas to declutter:
- Which reports are being sent to employees who do not need them?
- Which activities are continuing because of a longstanding tradition rather than being helpful or productive?
- Which metrics are redundant or not as useful?
- How frequently should your team meet for reports and reviews?
For those who are not in a leadership position, if these questions resonate with you, you can also bring them up to your leaders and point out areas of improvement.
2. Keep Communication Channels Open
In the absence of physical meetings, it has become more challenging to keep the entire team on the same page, particularly if there are newcomers on board. It is also difficult to make sure that everyone is on track to completing their tasks. Conversely, newcomers may feel lost or unsure of who to approach for help. Furthermore, sometimes information does not flow down properly, and this can create uncertainty and stress. Some leaders believe that no information is better than incomplete information, but this may result in employees “filling in the gap” with their assumptions.
The best way to circumvent this is to keep communication channels open. This will simultaneously allow you to convey the necessary information and for co-workers to bring up any clarifications. Co-workers can also help each other to clear doubts. Some possible channels include Slack and Yammer, where announcements can be posted and co-workers can communicate with each other.
3. Thrive, Don’t Survive
The changes you make to your workplace are often reactionary in nature, likely in response to perceived threats. Although this is a great motivation to introduce changes to the workplace, being in ‘survival mode’ is highly stressful and unsustainable in the long run. However, if you shift your mindset to look for opportunities amidst these changes, you might find ways to streamline your workflow in a way that you have never thought of before, and this might be a more fulfilling way to cope with change.
For example, shifting to an online model can help you gain access to clients or talent that were not possible before. Communicating aspirations and possibilities can also engage your employees with a newfound motivation or goal to work towards.
4. Delegate Control
Some leaders may take everything upon themselves and this can be overwhelming. Delegating control not only helps leaders to manage the workload, but also shows the trust you place in the employees, and this is empowering.
The IKEA effect is where people place a disproportionately high value on the things that they helped to create. For example, if they assembled a piece of furniture by themselves, they are more likely to be satisfied with the outcome. Similarly, when individuals have more autonomy, they will take pride in the work they do and will be more committed and purposeful in ensuring that the outcome is successful. They will also look for more opportunities to make the project better rather than simply completing a task when they are asked to. As such, delegating work is an effective way to keep your employees engaged amidst the new working arrangements.
5. Prepare for Change
The constantly changing circumstances of the pandemic prompt us to expect change, sometimes at very short notice. It is important to be prepared for making the transition quickly. A good starting point is to consider how to implement the various working arrangements: fully physical, needs-based, office decentralisation and fully virtual. Each of these methods has a different set of challenges. For example, in a needs-based working arrangement where those who visit the office to collaborate or hold meetings, there may be the issue of controlling who ‘needs’ to return to the office.
For office decentralisation, smaller satellite offices (an additional branch of a company) are set up closer to where employees live. This may make sense logistically, except that employees will be split up based on geographical location rather than their job functions. Anticipating these challenges and thinking of solutions to overcome them early can facilitate a smooth transition and reduce the stress and anxiety of such changes. It is also important to consider which is most suitable for your company, as well as the preferences of your employees.
Persian poet Rumi once said, “Yesterday I was clever, so I wanted to change the world. Today I am wise, so I am changing myself.” Sometimes a simple tweak in your mindset is all you need to thrive, not survive amidst the changes to the workplace during this pandemic. The pandemic is here to stay, and it is important to adapt quickly. Try out these five tips today!
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