Four tips for coaching companies back to work

Written by Graham Summerscales Tuesday 01 June 2021
The return-to-work process will be easier if you: cascade information; offer support; and develop your people’s resilience
Coach standing in front of employees to give speech

As we start to emerge from lockdown, I am excited for what the next few months will hold. I can’t wait to be able to work with people in person as opposed to over a Zoom call. It’s so important to establish a connection between coach and coachee – it benefits both parties and is so much more difficult to achieve over a video call.

As many organisations are now preparing to return to the workplace, managers must be mindful of when their teams will feel safe to go back into working spaces. Not everybody will be ready at the same time. I have been approached by companies who are desperate to bring everyone together around the boardroom table for group coaching/training – and of course for me, reading a room is quicker and more intuitive when you are standing in it as opposed to trying to pick up on numerous people’s facial expressions and social cues via Teams. But it is important not to force or rush this inevitable step back towards a more normal working life.

So how can leaders help their people transition back to the workplace? Buckle up for a bumpy ride…

1. Make a conscious effort to cascade information

Businesses need to prioritise communication. As lockdown restrictions start to ease, but teams are still mainly working from home, how you choose to communicate needs careful consideration. Within organisations that are still fragmented, business messages can easily become lost or forgotten. Information does not always naturally filter down from the top, likewise it might not filter back up the chain of command either. Leaders need to set an example and make a conscious effort to cascade information effectively and share news. It is important that communication is embraced at all levels; we all know the phrase ‘knowledge is power’ and there are those among us who like to hold onto it for their own purposes. Best practice from some businesses is to invite all employees onto regular conference calls with their leadership teams, so that the same messages can be cascaded to everyone at the same time. CMI have created a handy internal communication checklist to help you get it right.

2. Help your team to accept change

Managing change is always a key skill for a good leader and there has never been a greater need to utilise that skill set than right now. There are still many bumps in the road ahead with much change afoot, which is going to be difficult for a lot of people. You need to help your teams become more open and accepting of change to guide them through the next few months. Listening to your teams and the pain they are going through and then taking action to support them via change agents, coaches or wellbeing specialists.

3. Offer specific support to people affected by restructuring

My feeling is there will be more casualties; many companies will still be restructuring, and redundancy can result from this. Redundancy does not just affect the people that lose their jobs, but also the people that they leave behind within their teams, the working environment and, very importantly, their families. During and after the redundancy process many people need support, especially from a mental health and wellbeing perspective. It is the responsibility of the leaders within a business to understand this and put measures in place to mitigate where possible. This is where outplacement support becomes a key part of a restructure and can help steer people through a difficult time. CMI has a redundancy support page that is also very useful.

4. Tomorrow is a new day

Finally, another key skill is resilience, which kicks in during and after challenging times. The UK is opening back up, but the pandemic is not over yet. Things will never return 100% back to the way they were before, so it is important that we have the ‘bounceback ability’ to aid our transition to the new normal. There are better times ahead so summon up that inner strength, pick yourself back up and say ‘yeah, today was bad – but tomorrow is a new day and an opportunity to generate a positive outcome…’ That is resilience.

To find out how resilient you are, log into CMI’s Career Development Centre and take our self-assessment quiz.

Photo of Graham Summerscales

Graham Summerscales is an executive coach and founder of The Partners, a boutique people consultancy.

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