In a previous post, I have discussed how to create psychological safety as the key to fostering innovation. The point of psychological safety is to create a safe environment where employees and management can discuss their needs and those of the company. Why is innovation so important? There are several reasons. Settings of rapid and wholesale change, think pandemic, call for new creative solutions. Approaches that worked in the past will not work in the present moment. The need for innovative, collaborative solutions is evident as employers call employees back to the office and end working from home. I call it the Great reshuffle, as opposed to the great return, because not everyone is returning, and not everyone needs to return. However, figuring out who returns, for how many days, and who stays home requires navigating difficult conversations and negotiation. The first step for leadership is to contemplate potential concerns, topics, and questions that employees may raise. Identifying possible issues allows leaders to think through how company policy might apply and how to communicate the “why” behind new procedures. Here are some potential problems that come up frequently within my client base:

  1. Will everyone be allowed into the office or only those who are vaccinated?
  2. The company says it supports working from home, but employees sense leadership is biased toward those who have returned.
  3. The company supports flexibility while mandating several entirely on-site workdays sending mixed messages.
  4. How to hold accountable those who fake vaccination and refuse to follow safety protocols?
  5. We are mandating the disclosure of vaccination status.

These are all difficult situations that need to be addressed as more companies call employees back into the office. And remember, these issues are incremental to the disruption and change brought to the employees’ families by being called back. There is a lot at stake here for managers to get right. One approach is acknowledging that policies and procedures are a work in progress and will likely adapt as the company navigates the new normal. Inviting employees into difficult conversations and collaborating on innovative solutions will build trust.


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