Conversations on both sides of the Atlantic are turning to the return to the workplace, what that might look like, and how it will be achieved. Government plans for many countries are still uncertain but it’s clear that organizations in all territories will have to consider their options for the ‘post-lockdown workplace’.
Some businesses such as WPP and Barclays have already set out plans to reduce the number of staff returning to work in their offices, and undoubtedly many others will follow.
Aside from office layouts and working schedules, there will be significant impacts on organizational culture. With this in mind, we have outlined areas of consideration for employers in the transition back to work:
- Efficient tools and processes for addressing employee concerns: employees will undoubtedly have a number of questions and/or concerns post-lockdown, mainly around safety, ways of working, and day-to-day interaction with colleagues. HR teams will likely continue to be inundated, so having the appropriate tools to enable more efficient workflows will be crucial at this time. Organizations need a channel that enables stakeholders to triage, navigate, and resolve the undoubtedly heavy influx of questions and concerns that have and will continue to arise as we transition into life after lockdown.
- Ensuring employees feel psychologically safe returning to work: beyond the required safety measures workplaces will need to implement, providing psychological safety is an important part of ensuring employees returning to work feel confident to do so. Providing a safe and secure channel for employees to easily raise concerns and feel heard will be a critical part of the psychological safety initiative. An enterprise-grade app such as Vault Platform puts this safety in employees’ pockets.
- Enabling a speak-up culture: the pandemic has increased the need for transparency and trust within the workplace. Trust has always been a core component of building a healthy and productive workplace, but the pandemic has increased the need for an accessible and effective two-way communication channel that employees feel comfortable using. Vault Platform empowers employees through an anonymous reporting channel as well as our GoTogether feature which provides safety in numbers. We believe this is a crucial part of building an organizational culture where people feel heard and supported.
With headlines almost daily reporting incidents of retaliation against COVID-19 whistleblowers, we are witnessing a heightened sense of fear around the act of speaking up. The challenge here is that employees may favor silence over the perceived risk of reporting (even once the lockdown eases), something which has negative implications for culture while employers remain liable and exposed to unknown risks.
The pandemic has raised the bar for how organizations operate going forward. Employees will demand greater transparency within the workplace, whilst employers will be threatened with an increase in workplace activism and employees going public with their concerns. While technology can not by itself build a healthy workplace culture, we believe that trust is built through dismantling fear as a barrier to reporting and empowering employees to speak up internally, as well as facilitating the resolution of their concerns. Incumbent mechanisms are no longer appropriate for a workplace that will look very different to 2019 and technology is a key driver for assessing and maintaining ethical and cultural health at work.