5 challenges leaders must prepare for during the return to work

The post-COVID-19 comeback poses several major challenges: the waters are uncharted, the stakes are high, and uncertainty looms large. Across the globe, leaders must craft a path forward. The secret to launching impactful strategies lies in the ability to anticipate and overcome the most pressing obstacles associated with the return to work.

With immense challenge comes the opportunity for unprecedented change. During the COVID-19 pandemic, many enterprises have risen to the occasion by quickly transitioning to new ways of work devised to keep employees safe while maintaining operational continuity.

As leaders plan for the return to work, most will encounter the same tension: a desire to resume standard practice on one side with the need to embrace a new reality on the other. While the balance between these competing priorities will vary by organization, any enterprise that wishes to come back stronger must look to build upon successes and aggressively learn from experiences.

Next-generation technology is chief amongst these advancements. From video conferencing to virtual whiteboards, leaders turned to digital tools to underpin operational continuity during the crisis. The same features and functionalities are poised to play a crucial role in keeping employees safe, informed, and aligned throughout the return to work.

The challenges all leaders must have on their radar

While every enterprise will encounter its own set of considerations, there are five over-arching challenges that leaders must prioritize when devising their approach to returning to work:

#1. An ongoing need for communication

The COVID-19 pandemic proved to be a watershed moment for internal communications. 83% of employees in this field note that COVID-19 has had a positive influence on employees’ trust in communication. This sentiment will continue to build during the return to work process, as employees look to internal communicators for policy updates, information on safety protocols, and new insights.

Consequently, a comprehensive internal communications strategy is essential. The most compelling approaches will provide users with personalized updates during their return to the workplace that are relevant to their role and region, as well as insights from senior leadership to keep employees aligned. A multi-channel approach that utilizes push notifications, email, video, blog insights and mandatory content will maximize the reach and impact of key messages. Leaders should review their communications technology to establish channel strategies, and to ensure that their chosen platform is adept to support a sophisticated approach.


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#2. Wellbeing takes center-stage

Physical, mental, and financial security became paramount at the height of the pandemic. As leaders plan for the return to work, wellbeing must continue to take a front seat. If workers don’t feel like their employer is looking out for their health, these employees will be reluctant to return to the workplace.

For leaders who wish to build trust and empower their workforce, now is the ultimate time for comprehensive health initiatives. By embedding wellbeing into every aspect of the design and delivery of work itself, employees will be able to achieve their fullest potential. Comprehensive wellness hubs can centralize key resources, provide opportunities for employees to connect on health-focused social channels, and ensure that every worker feels safe throughout their return.

#3. Carve out opportunities to connect

Whether it’s shifting schedules or alternating who goes into the office when, it’s likely that many workforces will utilize a hybridized model that blends time in the office with telecommuting, at least initially. While a phased approach can ease the transition back to work and maximize safety, it also comes with its own set of challenges.

Namely, employees need designated outlets to connect with peers and stay social. During lockdown, savvy leaders turned to digital tools to recreate the water cooler experience virtually. As employees begin their transition back to the office, these efforts can’t fall by the wayside. Continue to utilize social networking functionality, discussion forums, and dedicated team sites to build community between your employees returning to the office and their colleagues who work remotely or those following alternate schedules.

#4. Prioritize purpose

The COVID-19 pandemic has served as a powerful reminder that the highest levels of motivation are only achieved when employees can connect their contributions to a greater mission. Even before the crisis, purpose ranked within the top three factors that employees look for in an organization; its importance is only likely to sky-rocket in the pandemic’s aftermath.

An overarching mission can boost morale and cultivate a sense of unity throughout your enterprise. As team members begin to return to work, consider launching new initiatives that will empower your workforce by bringing employees together under a common goal. Leaders can build buzz around social impact schemes by spotlighting these plans on their intranet homepage, creating discussion forums, and showcasing internal ambassadors who are leading the charge.

#5. Agility over efficiency

The organizations that were best equipped to handle the pandemic were not necessarily the biggest or fastest growing; instead, it was agile enterprises that came out on top. Throughout the return to work, leaders must keep resilience on their radar.

Instead of pulling back on workforce development efforts, now is the time to double down on the initiatives that will support your team’s overall agility. To equip employees with the tools and competencies needed to upskill, designated development resources are essential. Leaders should launch an all-encompassing hub for video webinars, how-to content, and internal growth opportunities to inspire employees to expand their horizons by honing new skills.

Overcome the challenges of returning to work with a modern intranet

While every enterprise’s post-COVID-19 comeback plan will vary, the proliferation of digital tools is set to be the common denominator amongst impactful strategies. If you are looking to launch a modern intranet to cultivate connectivity and empower your workforce, get in touch with our digital workplace experts.

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