The Certainty Setback

leadership transition Sep 14, 2021

- By Jana Al Hammouri

With the latest news of COVID-19, a new sense of uncertainty has been created. It has circulated, leaving offices and executive leaders unsure of what to do to keep control. With new variants rapidly spreading and numerous restrictions being removed and reinstated worldwide, there must be a definition of certainty within your organization. This focus on producing certainty comes from the fact that you can never know the entirety of the situation.

Whether it's slowing down or speeding up, having a basis of certainty by knowing what you can and cannot control for your team in a sea of uncertainty allows you to set a path for some stability even in times of turbulence.

As targeted messaging related to the COVID-19 pandemic has already shown us, putting in the effort and being intentional with the way businesses are run has forced many organizations to shift how they operate.

Being settled into a world of widespread remote work, many have found success using different approaches to reduce employee burnout while maintaining organizational momentum.

While a year and a half of working from home have consisted of video calls and online meetings, political, social and economic uncertainty, disrupted operations, and personal stress, it seems that it may be time to head back to the office in a different way. With increased vaccinations and a push from executives to head back to the offices and resume business as usual, it may be more challenging to return than it was to leave in March 2020.

However, with the uncertainty of the entire pandemic seeping into how organizations run on short notice, it's essential to assess how to create certainty with what you have at hand.

The global restriction and travel bans obstructed, tested, and redefined the workplace's expectations, context, conditions, and organizational interactions. Prior to the pandemic, the conventional wisdom had been that offices and formal environments were critical to productivity, culture, and advancement overall. As a result, organizations competed intensely for prime office space in major urban centers worldwide. Many focused on solutions that encouraged collaboration and promoted growth and innovation. With various stay-at-home orders in place, employees and executives have discovered that they don't have to be in an office, and many have the ability to get most things done remotely.

By using the skills and abilities your employees and staff members have developed over the pandemic to your advantage, you can create your own certainty toolbox. A collection of experience, aptitude, expertise, and capability that'll allow you to ground your organization both internally and externally.

As a leader, you can fill your toolbox with your own policies that you've implemented during the work from home order that may or may not include increased mental health measures and employee reassurance.

It would be best if you incorporated your team as a primary tool by talking with them and accepting what you may not know, it's best to catch up once in a while. In the front pockets of your toolkit, you can create certainty through reassurance including work-led initiatives like team connects and organization-wide schedules and activities. Ventures like these help keep everything intact. They allow room in your certainty toolbox to organize your skills and abilities, from most important to least important. At the front, you have your most important tools, including your team and clear and consistent communication, followed by check-ins to prevent burnout and project momentum, which will allow you to adjust your approaches along the way as you see fit, to create the best environment for your team to produce the best product and deliver the best services to your client. By creating adaptations, you're emphasizing that you may not know what's coming, but here is what you are prepared to do next.

With many organizations starting to reopen their offices and reintroduce modified in-person services, employees' current thoughts on the situation either read excitement and readiness to embark on a new situation or hesitancy to return and restore the traditional work environment.

From seeing your colleagues and employees as little boxes in a virtual room to actual attendees in a boardroom, CEOs and organizational leaders must consider which culture changes they want to retain and which they must counteract to increase certainty.

Following their adjustments to operating during a pandemic, organizations need to consider the cost-benefit of bringing employees back to the office and make sure it is clearly communicated to employees as they prepare for a organization pandemic recovery. Rather than reverting "back to normal," there needs to be an upgrade, an atmosphere advancement within the workplace. Instead of returning to the standard, there needs to be a new standard developed and changed in place of presumed security and stability.

One of the most significant aspects of creating an upgraded workplace environment and an appropriately updated workplace culture can be inspired from great leadership transitions.

Typically, leadership transitions fail if the nature of an organization is not understood or misunderstood, which ultimately tests a company's cultural fabric.

Yet, for many, resuming "normal" operations following the pandemic will resemble a leadership transition with similar challenges and opportunities. CEOs and organizational leaders need to recognize what's going well and when and where something could go wrong to effectively transition into a new office setting and a new leadership situation. More importantly, it's essential to notice and realize how something is going right or wrong. As the office experience probably won't remain as it was before the pandemic, most organizations will have COVID-19 safety protocols in place. Mandates such as requiring their staff and employees to wear masks, redesigned spaces to ensure physical distancing, and restricted movement in congested and high-frequency areas such as elevators, office kitchens, lobbies and waiting areas must be implemented. Additionally, organizations will have to navigate the difference in comfort levels amongst employees and customers by instituting ongoing measures regarding face-to-face communication between the two. Whether that be through virtual meetings, larger meeting spaces to ensure physical distancing and more masks within the workplace, finding a balance in regards to safety and security is essential to communicate to all stakeholders of the organization through appropriate social media messaging and by starting the conversation of different comfort levels within the workplace.

Therefore, even after the initial reopening phases of offices and workplaces, attitudes toward these workplaces will probably continue to evolve and develop with time and as more restrictions ease.

To re-establish cultural norms within the workplace, the workplace itself needs to be reimagined and redesigned.

Not just physically but socially and in terms of mannerisms. From team dynamics to influences, there needs to be a break in culture to progress and use the lessons from this large-scale work-from-home experiment that the pandemic allowed us to conduct to reimagine how work is done—and what role offices should play—in both creative and bold ways, across industries.

The restructuring of workplaces and re-establishing cultural norms initially has to start with being clear in communication and vocal with the organization's intentions and targets. Whether it be a slow and steady approach with initial runs into the office when necessary alongside a primarily online presence or an all-in approach, employees will be expected to make a full return to the office and shift their work and productivity to continue business as usual. But by utilizing your certainty toolbox throughout this process, you're able to reposition the cause and effect of the actions you take and formulate purposeful tactics that will help your organization. You will be able to know what is going to happen before it happens. Put certainty before uncertainty by planning before you start and utilizing the tools in your toolbox will allow you to temporarily build a life raft while swimming in seas of uncertainty to give you the certainty of building a boat.


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