C-Suite Advisory

How to Help Employees Safely Shift into the Future of Work in a Pandemic Era

There’s no doubt that the COVID-19 pandemic has shifted the world of work. With uncertainty still looming as we approach 2021, it’s critical that we, as business leaders, strategize on how to keep our employees safe and productive.

Businesses of all sizes need to recognize that the stress and collective trauma of COVID-19 will impact employees long after this crisis is over – even when most employees continue to work from home (WFH).  As a result of WFH policies, employees and managers are disengaged and dealing with work/family issues and suffering anxiety, stress, conflict, violent ideation, and violence. There are some new realities we would be well served to take into account as we formulate a sensible game plan to prepare ourselves and our team for the future of work.

To give you a clearer perspective, let’s take a deep dive on key trends to watch in the workplace over the next 12-to-24 months:

  • More remote work
  • Tremendous stress during and post-pandemic
  • Humanitarian crisis
  • Mental health crisis

Going with the current trends, I believe that up to 30 percent of the workforce will WFH indefinitely. Workplace stress, even if the new workplace is the home, could reach all-time levels, since many employees are working parents in a two-professional household, and with multiple young children attending school virtually. The 70 percent of the workforce that returns to the organizational workplace will experience changes that make the brick and mortar workplace less desirable, such as:

  • No more/ or less communal dining
  • No more/ or less company parties/picnics and trips

People will develop less intimate relationships, which could result in a decrease in the time it takes for conflict to develop and climax. Depression could also become a very common occurrence, which takes away from productivity. Consider engaging a part-time onsite and/or virtual psychologist/therapist for employees who need it. It’s also a good idea to discuss workload and overtime expectations with employees, whether they are in the office or working at home.

With many businesses facing decreased sales and revenue amid uncertainty, it’s also important to discuss any issues related to layoffs, furloughs or terminations. First, decide if this is the right time for discretionary reductions in your workforce. It might be a good idea to re-visit and strengthen your company’s layoff/termination policies in order to mitigate possible incidents of workplace violence.

C-Level employee stress levels could also reach all-time highs, which could become detrimental to leadership capabilities and impact the company’s bottom-line in so many ways.  We’ve seen what happens when our leadership becomes the toxic communication culprits. Companies could end up losing millions in expenses and lost revenue in the long-run as a result of this alone.

Toxic organizational communication is often visible only to those affected, and has a very detrimental impact on employees as well as organizations. This communication can lead to patterns of bullying, harassment, sexual harassment, aggression, escalated conflict, threats, discrimination, and violence. Since there is currently no systematic way to become aware of issues when they arise in real time, organizations have been forced to deal with these issues only when they rise to the level where they have already created a significant and adverse impact on people and company culture.

If these situations are left to fester, they will become much more costly to reverse than they would have cost to prevent. As company leaders, it’s on us to find effective tools to keep our employees safe, such as stopping toxic communication and behavior before they happen. It’s also critical for organizations to provide employee training for a new world, as well as provide help and resources for mental health issues.

We need to implement strategies and tools that assure employees the company will identify and mitigate elevated physical security threats in the areas of conflict and violence driven by emerging trends such as insider threats, racial tensions, social distancing tensions, domestic violence spillover, domestic terrorism, and even active shooters.

The bottom line: be proactive. Keeping the lines of communication open with your employees and letting them know that you’re doing everything you can to keep them safe and healthy is extra critical during this uncertain time.  It is, after all, the responsibility of leadership to:

  • Manage risk factors
  • Lead change
  • Provide support to the workforce

The ultimate goal is to anticipate conflicts and threats before they become a serious problem.  Developing strategies to help employees safely and confidently transition into the future of work will help ease some anxieties and fears while building a hopeful, healthy, and prosperous future for the entire organization.   

The workplace should be where you and your employees can be productive and feel safe. Unfortunately, workplace violence incidents occur all over the country, and they can happen at any given time. How you handle these serious and sometimes deadly incidents is key to a productive and healthy environment.

Written by Ty Smith. If you enjoy this article, don’t forget to check out our compilation of the World’s Richest Race Car Drivers, Richest Musicians, Richest Models, and Richest Rappers Richest Hockey Players Richest Film Directors. Richest Comedians, Richest Basketball Players.

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Ty Smith
Ty Smith is the Founder and CEO of CommSafe AI, a technology company that specializes in conflict and violence prevention. He is a retired United States Navy SEAL Senior Chief, with 20 years of service. Prior to retiring from the Navy, Ty completed a Bachelor of Arts in Organizational Management from Ashford University, and a Master of Business for Veterans from the University of Southern California, Marshall School of Business. Ty Smith is an opinion columnist for the CEOWORLD magazine. Follow him on LinkedIn.