Distressed employee looking at his computer with his head in his hand
Companies that fail to address return to work concerns will see large rates of employee attrition

We are in a unique time right now in the US.

With vaccines readily available and cases of COVID-19 falling, companies are looking to bring people back into the office or install a hybrid model of work that allows flexibility. 

This shift brings with it a lot of opportunity but also exposes some larger potential downsides.

Employees are readjusting their priorities.

A recent survey by Ernst & Young indicated that up to 54% of employees would leave their current role if not provided with flexible work options. The Wall Street Journal reports that more workers are voluntarily leaving their jobs than at any point in the last two decades. Companies that don’t get this shift right are going to see increased employee attrition and churn, decreased employee morale, greater burnout for those employees that stay, and reduced overall productivity.  

Graph showing the rate of employees leaving their jobs
Workers are leaving faster than ever

Successful return to work strategies go beyond just opening up the doors to the office and hanging a “Welcome Back” banner on the wall. Companies need to understand the emotional state that their employees are in given the stresses of the past 15 months. Employees are going to be showing up (or not showing up) with different experiences, different motivations, and different expectations. One of the biggest mistakes that company leaders could make is believing that things will quickly return to normal after bringing people back. 

Employees are emotionally drained from the uncertainty and stress that the pandemic brought on. The changing dynamic of work and home life has created a workforce that is burned out and on edge.  Companies need to ensure that their return-to-work policies and processes don’t add confusion and stress to this already demanding time. To do this effectively, companies need to be able to apply a deep understanding of their employee’s emotional states and the actions that enhance or detract from those states.

This is not easy. So, how do companies do it effectively?

Our work and conversations with the leading experts in behavioral science and human psychology – through both the Lantern Group and our partner podcast Behavioral Grooves – have provided insights that can help lead companies through this maze.

Lots of organizations have put together safety plans and redesigned their physical space in response to the pandemic. This is a great starting point, but, in addition to that, companies need to put in place a human plan to address their employee’s emotional wellbeing. Company leaders that do this successfully will see an increase in employee satisfaction, retention, and productivity.  

This human plan needs to account for those companies where employees are back full time in the office, those organizations that are moving to a hybrid model, as well as those that stay with a remote work force. The human side of work is key in all of those models. 

There is an opportunity to demonstrate to employees that your company cares about them and their well-being.

We have developed a roadmap for these initiatives called Leading Human™. The name is derived from the idea that companies need to start with the human side of the business first.

Leading Human™ goes beyond just the re-entry from the pandemic and impacts the core of how work will happen in the future. These changes mean that we need to shift the way we lead. Thus, we need to not only understand the stress and emotional factors that our employees face, but we also need to address those factors head-on, creating a more welcoming and safer workplace, develop leadership routines that account for employee emotions, and enhance our leadership communication skills.

Our work with experts in human dynamics and our own expertise in this field allowed us to gather key behavioral insights into an actionable toolkit for managers. This toolkit pulls all the pieces together in a comprehensive playbook along with a companion workbook that addresses the new work environment. 

In addition, we are offering virtual training sessions to ensure a full understanding of the new work dynamics.

Leading Human™ focuses on four key areas that leaders can work on to help drive a successful transition:

1. Training leaders in psychological safety

Leaders need to understand the emotional workings of their team. Instituting safe boundaries for how team members communicate with each other and calling out unsafe behavior when it happens is crucial for an emotionally safe workplace. Leaders need to lead by example, advocate for transparency, and to eliminate turf battles and behind-the-scenes deal-making. Psychological safety opens up a multitude of pathways for higher productivity.

2. Creating a team charter

Understanding how we want “to be” as a team is important. It provides guidance, not only for how we show up, but for how we interact with each other. It is important to have clear expectations for how we interact with each other and building a charter allows the team to articulate what matters most right now. It also acts as a reminder to what the team holds dear in the months to come.

3. Implementing Leading Human™ leadership practices

To allow employees to flourish, they need the freedom to apply their best thinking to their work, to create the best work product possible, to engage with each other to ensure the highest quality processes and outputs. Leaders who build processes and routines into their team’s work are more likely to succeed. Leaders must consider the emotional impact that their communication (or lack thereof) can have on employees and craft their messages to reduce any unwanted angst. In today’s world, authenticity and transparency will go a long way because “the messenger is the message.” 

4. Charting a Clear Path Forward

In uncertain times, we crave certainty. And, while certainty cannot be guaranteed, leaders need to focus on painting a clear picture of what the future may look like for their teams. This picture helps set realistic expectations while providing a desirable future destination that the team can strive for. It also means that leaders need to be transparent when they don’t know the answer or when the company is still weighing the options. 

Employees realize that leaders are not clairvoyant and don’t expect them to see what the experts cannot see. Employees do, however, expect leaders to step up to the challenges that are in view and deal with them directly.

Our work has shown that these four tenets (Creating Psychological Safety, Building a Team Charter, Implementing Human-Centered Routines, and Charting a Clear Path Forward) can make a significant difference in employees’ emotional connection to the company and to and help smooth transitions we face in the new working world. The Leading Human™ playbook and companion workbook guide managers through specific rationale on each of those key areas and give them specific tools to implement these ideas to create a roadmap for success.

To learn more about why these processes are so critical to today’s working world grab our free whitepaper here.

Stay ahead of the competition and solidify your company’s future in the new world by preordering Leading Human™ here at $20 off.*

*Pre-orders are limited to single license downloads – for multiple licenses and/or corporate/enterprise level pricing please reach out to us at behavior@lanterngroup.com