The Four C’s to Helping Employees Embrace Change at Work during COVID

Since March, the pandemic has impacted many aspects of our lives – especially our working lives. 42 percent of the U.S. workforce is now working from home as a result of social distancing measures to proactively help reduce the spread of the virus. This percentage accounts for two-thirds of today’s workers who are contributing to our economy.

In addition to this drastic shift in how and where the majority of us work, other challenges have risen that otherwise would have been nonexistent pre-COVID. Employees are now balancing virtual work with caring for family members, supporting children with virtual learning environments, and managing household duties.

Additionally, employees are surrounded by heavy news cycles that seem to never end and faced with technology adoption hurdles that play a greater role in how we communicate and interact with one another.

Four C’s to Helping Employees

Embrace Change at Work COVID-19

Four C’s to Helping Employees

The new intricacies of what the “work day” means has elevated the importance of HR teams to the overall health and wellness of business. They are the glue that keeps culture, leadership and employees together. The current health pandemic has heightened HR departments’ purpose, requiring them to re-think how their organization needs to communicate; how to provide appropriate levels of support to workers; the state of culture and workers’ sense of belonging; and, how to safely re-integrate employees as offices re-open.

This responsibility is taken to another level when you bring “global” into the mix, ensuring company decisions and employee initiatives across different geographical locations align with regional needs. 

As you and your company move from phase to phase – or, embrace the new normal and work-from-home culture indefinitely – consider prioritizing the four C’s as part of your HR operations tactics. Each aspect can be applied in regards to where you are right now as a company and how you’re approaching the current state of the pandemic.

Compassion

First and foremost, employees’ health and well-being must be your number one priority. How they feel translates to their contributions and success to any organization.

Employers need to take the time to recognize and understand what employees are seeing, feeling and experiencing in their own individual work environments while working from their dining room table, home office or kitchen counter. Employers need to be mindful that everyone may have a different and unique set of challenges that they are dealing with. While leaders and companies need to have great analytical and decision-making skills, they also need to demonstrate vulnerability and empathy during crises. This is new territory for everyone and it is important to recognize that the world events have turned routines, practices and norms upside down. Employees are craving purpose, stability, transparency and authenticity from their leaders during these times.

 

Much of what is communicated to employees is a direct reflection of a company’s values and what contributes to “culture.”

 

Compassion can be shown in so many different ways and can be as simple as taking the time during the start of a meeting to ask how everyone is doing or how they are feeling. This can also be shown by acknowledging hardships that have a direct impact on an employee, such as a sick family member or even a co-worker. Recognizing that everyone’s situation is unique, as a leader you need to create opportunities to have open dialogue and really listen to what your employees are saying. These conversations should allow them to share their thoughts, feelings, worries and perceptions freely, knowing that you are there to listen and support them.

Communication

Transparent communication is paramount in any situation – but especially during a crisis. If you’re trying to transition employees to a virtual work environment, introduce new tools for greater efficiencies or re-integrate employees back at their physical office, employees need to understand how decisions are made, the rationale for the change, what the process will look like for them and when the change will be put into effect.

Transparency is key to helping employees realize that the change or direction was taken with thought and care, and answers the “why now.” For example, if a new local or state social distancing guideline has been put in place and why that alters a company’s plan or procedure. 

Given the varying degrees of change the pandemic has created, the frequency of communication may need to be increased and come from all levels in the organization so that employees feel connected and updated regularly. Utilizing technology to have leaders on video conference calls to share business updates on a regular basis ensures that employees understand the operational aspects of the business, while also creating a more personal face-to-face interaction over video in place of an in-person meeting.

 

Transparency is key to helping employees realize that the change or direction was taken with thought and care, and answers the “why now.”  

 

Creating a central hub online can also ensure employees have access to all of the most important and relevant information that’s been communicated. At Semtech, we have created a dedicated page on our intranet site that houses all communication messages issued at a regional level, latest pandemic guidelines, as well as helpful resources for employees and leaders. We also provide regular updates on the status of COVID around the world, how it may be affecting business, and tips and information on how to cope with the current climate.

In order to communicate efficiently, whether via a portal or a live video conference, employees need the right tools. Consider investing in platforms that not only allow for casual chatter during the day – as opposed to relying on email for simple questions – but offer an easy video call function to quickly sync up with a team member face-to-face, like Zoom or MS Teams. 

Culture

Much of what is communicated to employees is a direct reflection of a company’s values and what contributes to “culture.”

While company updates and the status of customer relationships is vital to keeping the business running, information on how an employee should integrate work into their life is vital in fostering the human element of the job. What’s the expectation around “working hours” and when should work get done? When are boundaries appropriate to create work/life balance, and when should work take precedence? What are you doing during your free time to recharge and take time for yourself?

We offer a number of tips around work/life balance and the integration of the workday in today’s work-from-home environment – especially for employees with young children that are dealing with changing school schedules and remote lesson plans. We also provide staycation ideas in the age of COVID to encourage employees to take their vacation time, even if it doesn’t involve traveling.

 

During times of uncertainties, articulating what safety means to your organization, making resources available and committing to proactive communication lets teams know they are valued and their health and wellness is a priority.

 

Another aspect that defines a culture is collaboration. Working in a physical office allowed for regular in-person employee chats and discussions pre-COVID. With the shift to a virtual working environment, there isn’t the same opportunity for connecting with co-workers in a casual setting, reducing the natural collaboration and brainstorming that would occur. Replicating in-person experiences can help re-instill the importance of this time, such as re-creating virtual onboarding lunches with new employees, morning coffee/tea breaks as a team and virtual happy hours.

Contact Tracing

While this category may not be relevant to all organizations, whether they’ve decided to close physical locations and remain fully remote, the concept of keeping employees feeling safe can be applied regardless. During times of uncertainties, articulating what safety means to your organization, making resources available and committing to proactive communication lets teams know they are valued and their health and wellness is a priority.

For companies that are exploring office re-openings, providing technology solutions to ensure a safe return to work can help put employees at ease knowing that the focus is on keeping them and their families safe. There are many technology solutions available including contact tracing solutions to capture people’s movements indoors, tracking the number of people in one location and measuring the air quality. However, with any form of monitoring, there are always privacy concerns that need to be addressed.

The wearable sensors we are piloting at our headquarters keeps the focus on device-to-device contact so that we immediately know who may be at risk in the event of a confirmed diagnosis to ensure real-time communication and support. The sensors only track movement within the building premises, alleviating any concerns that an employee’s movement is tracked once they leave the office.

While the pandemic has certainly created a tidal wave of change around how we do our jobs, HR teams that embrace the shift and respond quickly with compassion will be able to handle any other crises that come their way. Staying flexible, communicating effectively and working side-by-side with your employees will ensure success.

A version of this interview appeared in the October 2020 issue (p. 22) of The HR Digest. 

Tracy Browne
Tracy Browne
Tracy Browne has been a senior director of human resources at global semiconductor company Semtech, for over seven years, responsible for overseeing employees in the U.S., UK, Europe, Mexico and Canada regions.

Similar Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *