5 ways to support your team as covid restrictions are lifted
On July 19th, all covid restrictions will be lifted in the England. No more masks, social distancing and lockdowns (hopefully).
While there are many people who welcome this shift towards normality with open arms and beers at the ready, there are just as many people who are feeling uncertain, anxious and wary. This is especially true in the debate around the return to the office — some are chomping at the bit to get back and to be around other humans beings, while others are more than happy sticking with their home setup.
This is a hell of a lot for employers and leaders to navigate around. How can you possibly please everyone? Well, you can’t. So what can you do?
You can show that you care.
We’ve been talking about this a lot at The Future Kind Collective and we believe that it’s every employers duty to support their people through this transition towards life without restrictions. Leaders need to create space for the varying levels of comfort that are inevitable across different teams and individuals. A one-size-fits-all approach just won’t cut it. And just because you’re personally cool with something, doesn’t mean that others in your team feel the same.
So we’ve come up with 5 ways leaders can support their teams as covid restrictions are lifted which you can read below! We hope you find them useful.
1. Understand your people’s needs
Before you make any changes in light of restrictions lifting, it’s vital that you take the time to ask your people how they’re feeling. You can make this anonymous through a survey, or you can introduce it into your 1-to-1’s and team meetings. You could even do a bit of both — whatever option you choose, it should be the one that allows your people to feel comfortable to share openly and freely. Once you know how your team is feeling, you can use this information to inform any changes you intend to make before you make them, with a clear understanding of how people are likely to respond. The good news is that your people are more likely to respond positively to changes that they feel they’ve been able to input to, or that their voice has been heard beforehand.
2. Practice and show empathy
All leaders should remind themselves as often as possible that how they experience the world isn’t how everyone in their team will experience it. This means that when changes happen, whether inside or outside a business, the way the leader feels about those changes can’t be used as a litmus test for the rest of the team. We need to tap into our empathy and compassion to help us consider the different perspectives and experiences of our colleagues. When a change is made and there’s pushback, leaders need to avoid jumping to conclusions about the dissenters. Instead, try to imagine what is fuelling their perspective. At The Future Kind Collective, we believe in extending the most generous interpretation of another persons intentions. This means that our default assumption is that everyone’s intentions are good, unless proven otherwise. With this mindset, it helps us tap into our empathy and show compassion for those who think and feel differently to us.
3. Provide choice and flexibility
We said it once and we’ll say it again. A one-size-fits-all approach simply isn’t going to work. People are complex and it’s impossible to find one solution that will meet the needs of all people in a team, no matter how big or small it is. If you’re hoping that July 19th will mean the mass return to the office then you’re going to be disappointed. That is, if you want your people to stay in your business. There are already many stories circulating of interview candidates saying that the reason they’re looking for a new job is due to their current employer insisting on their return to the office. If you want stop great people from leaving, it’s best to offer a spectrum of options that are viable for your business and then allow your people to choose what’s best for them. Ultimately, teams thrive when they are given trust and autonomy.
4. Share vulnerability
Regardless of seniority in a company, we’re all human. That means that even company leaders will have worries about the upcoming changes to restrictions. If that’s you then we’d invite you to be open with your team about how you’re feeling. Leaders who share their vulnerability with their teams build trust and psychological safety. People don’t want their leaders to put on a brave face all of the time, they want to know that their leaders are just like them. So we say don’t shy away from admitting that you’re also struggling with the changes, or sharing the things that you’re worrying about. This signals to your team that it’s ok for them share how they feel, too. When a team feels safe to share worries and concerns with each other, they can work on overcoming them collectively — and there’s real power in that.
5. Continually learn and adapt
When you’re planning changes in light of restrictions lifting, we’d recommend treating them like experiments. This takes the pressure off, as it suggests the changes are potentially temporary and can be changed if they don’t work out. This is good for leaders, as well as the team. If we treat changes like experiments, it creates an environment where learning is encouraged. We rarely find that get things right the first time round so it’s best to set the expectation of trying from the outset. Also, if your team knows that you’re experimenting, they’re much more likely to give candid feedback on what’s not working and to bring their ideas to the table.
So, the question is, are you ready for July 19th? We hope this article helps you get closer to a confident yes!
If you’re way ahead of us and have been thinking about this for a while, please let us know how you’re supporting your teams during this transition. We’d love to hear your ideas. But if you feel you’re lagging behind, get in touch with us for some support 🤗
About the author
Nat is one of two co-founders at The Future Kind Collective which exists to build a world that is kinder, fairer and more creative, where all people have the opportunity to do great things.
Nat is a purpose-driven strategist, empathetic people leader, designer of cultures, services and companies. She is passionate about lifetime learning, compassionate leadership and inclusive cultures.
Nat started her career in digital strategy, where she applied service design to the strategic development of the NatWest mobile banking app. In 2016, she joined SPARCK, a design consultancy, as their third employee, where she was influential in shaping and growing it into a mature organisation.
Throughout her consultancy career, Nat has led projects with varied clients including Insights, Amnesty International, BP, Vocalink (of MasterCard), DVSA, Fidelity, HSBC, ITV and Pizza Hut.
About The Future Kind Collective
The Future Kind Collective is a purpose-driven consultancy which exists to build a world that is kinder, fairer and more creative, where all people have the opportunity to do great things.
We help start-ups and scale-ups to define their purpose, design their culture and grow their impact, while also embedding the skills they need to unlock their power.
We’re here to challenge the existing consultancy model and prove that by putting people and purpose first, you can create businesses that are more profitable, impactful and equitable.
To find out more or to chat over a challenge you’re grappling with, get in touch at email@example.com
We’d love to hear from you!