Our current business environment has caused us all to be more adaptable and ready to transform the way we work. We all know that adjusting to change is easier for some than others!
Let’s go back and focus on the core tenets of change management in a totally new context. The simple change continuum model is based on the 4 emotional stages of change originally developed by William Bridges: Denial, Resistance, Exploration, and Commitment . The model focuses on the emotional stages humans go through with any major change whether personal and professional. In a business setting there is a loss of productivity and engagement during the denial and resistance phase and increased productivity and engagement through the exploration and commitment phase. Everyone will go through the 4 stages of change at different speeds based on many personality factors.
Today’s businesses are dealing with the change of what does it look like for employees to return to the office. Returning to the office can be challenging for a number of employees who feel very comfortable working remotely and don’t want to return to work. What do you do with that group?
All business leaders need to have a clear vision of what they want employees to commit to and how to get to commitment faster in the change model. Another focus is how are you are going to protect employees and help them commit to knowing the workplace is safe. Many employees will be excited to return to the office while others are going to be stuck in the first phases of the change process of denial and resistance. For those employees, focused on denial and resistance this could equate to a loss of productivity and engagement.
Our key advice is to create a clear communication plan and consider the employee’s needs first, not those of the leaders to get employees back in the office ASAP. The reality is that trying to get employees back too soon may backfire for an employer and worst case create an unsafe workplace for your employees. Make sure your plan is well vetted by several people to get different perspectives before a plan is solidified. Understand that some employees may be very concerned about coming back to work and their concerns need to be heard and openly addressed.
A concise and sincere communication plan is critical to make the return to the office process go as smoothly as possible. Have a company wide meeting(s) several weeks prior to the scheduled return being initiated. Allowing employees to have some flexibility in moving through the above 4 stages of change will insure more rapid commitment which translates into higher productivity and employee engagement. That ultimately translates into higher revenue and profitability for the company.