Whether you are managing the reopening of an educational establishment, such as a kindergarten, school, college, or university, or a workplace environment, such as an office, retail outlet, or factory, you should consider how you are going to support all your stakeholders. Regardless if your stakeholders are children, students, staff, or customers and clients, you should consider their different needs. Staff may be anxious about returning to the workplace after an extended time working at home, children are likely to have worries about returning to school and customers may have lost confidence about shopping in stores. As a manager, there are certain things that you could consider to support people with the return.
Communication is a key way that you can help make people feel as safe as possible. It is good practice to engage with everyone, whatever the situation – children, parents, experienced staff, established customers. It is important that everyone is kept up-to-date with the measures that managers and leaders have put in place to keep everyone as safe as can be. This should help provide reassurance that management has risk assessed the situation and has put things in place to minimize risks of spreading the Covid-19 virus. It is also helpful to allow for two-way communication, allowing staff, parents, customers, and children to raise their concerns so that you provide communication about how you are addressing these concerns. This communication can help you build trust and confidence.
Just as importantly, as well as providing reassurance, your communication should make sure that everyone is aware of the measures so that they can abide by them. You should communicate clearly the new rules and procedures to stakeholders, you may need to publish new staff or student guidance, posters may be needed to explain rules to everybody, including customers, children, hotel guests, etc. You should make sure that your communication is accessible to all. For example, if working with younger children, you may need to provide visual messages and when working in a multilingual environment, you may need to provide communication in various languages.
Linguation.com can translate your posters, policies, and information sheets, making sure that all your stakeholders fully comprehend the control measures put in place in the workplace.
Building on current good practice
You should build on whatever you are currently doing well. Evaluate your practices during the lockdown and build on the good things that you already have in place. For example, you could find that welfare calls to staff or families during lockdown has helped build positive relationships. You could continue with these to support the transition back to the workplace / educational establishment. Perhaps you moved to online meetings and these worked well. You might like to consider keeping online meetings in a place where possible, reducing risks for staff even if they are working in the same building.
It may also cut down on traveling time to meetings, which could help with staff work-life balance. The same with online training; many staff enjoyed this and liked the benefits of not having to travel to training. Could this be retained as we return to the workplace?
Supporting with the transition back
It will be difficult to expect everyone to return immediately to their previous routines. People may need time to build up to usual routines. In schools, for example, time may be needed for a more creative curriculum, building in time to reflect and discuss events. Younger children especially may need activities which remind them how to share and take turns. In the workplace too, staff may need time to adjust to the expected work routines and may need a certain amount of flexibility, perhaps an adjustment in work patterns or workspace. It could be that some members of your work community have suffered personal trauma during the crisis, including bereavement. Managers should consider what support they could give in this respect. Does the workplace have a counseling service? If so, do employees know how to access this?
Building staff expertise
Managers and leaders may need to make sure that their staff has the ability to support others. For example, if staff in kindergartens, schools and universities are going to support the mental wellbeing of children and young people, they may need some training on how to do this. It could be that they need a focus on supporting with bereavement or on dealing with anxiety. This may also be the case with managers in the workplace supporting employees. Moreover, managers may find that they are supporting employees worried about the current economic crisis and worried about job security as an added concern. Furthermore, staff may also need training and guidance about recognizing when specialist support is needed and how to make a referral or where to signpost to an appropriate specialist.
Managers may also consider training for all staff on resilience building and self-care. Again, training and support may need to be offered in a variety of languages in a multilingual environment, allowing all staff or students to access the materials effectively. Again, some agencies provide the translation of training materials in a large number of language combinations and at reasonable prices. If you have a multilingual workforce, you should make sure that the training is accessible to them easily.
Managers and leaders – remember to look after yourself
Last but not least, remember to look after yourself! Whatever your place of work, managing the Covid-19 situation in the workplace is likely to be difficult and at times stressful. If you don’t look after your own health and wellbeing, you are not going to be very effective in supporting others. Make sure that you look after yourself and seek support from other senior colleagues should you need to. Moreover, you should maintain a positive work-life balance. This is important and doesn’t mean you are any less committed to work. On the contrary, it should help you function better at work and, as well as looking after your own wellbeing, you will provide a good model for your employees.