Jeanniey Walden
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Although many employers were eagerly looking forward to their return to work plans at the start of the new year, the onset of the Omicron variant has thrown a wrench into many of those plans. Yet again, companies nationwide have publicly announced an extended delay to their return to office plans. And this time, with most getting COVID or knowing someone how got COVID over the holidays, more employees than ever are scared about returning to in-person work. 

What seems like doom and gloom may actually offer us an opportunity to create something better. The trick is, we need to take a minute to appreciate what we have learned and find ways to create positive change regardless of when return to office plans happen — because as we know, plans are always subject to change. 

How to Benefit from What We’ve Learned

Employees can be productive remotely. 

We know now that for some jobs, productivity can be just as high in a remote setting as it is in the office. We also have accepted that hybrid work scheduling is here to stay. The companies that can adjust to remote or hybrid working will see turnover continue to decline as employees find growing satisfaction in a more balanced work and home life. 

Promotion opportunities are for everyone. 

The pandemic taught us that working from home can be detrimental to advancement in career, especially for working mothers. Research has shown that they are often the ones burdened with responsibility for childcare during the pandemic with frequent school closings or ever-changing schedules. As a result, we have seen leaders pay more attention to promotion opportunities for this segment of workers in addition to those on maternity leave. Companies are encouraged to revisit the way they manage promotions and reviews to offer equal opportunity for all. 

The great resignation is about purpose, not just money. 

Data on the great resignation has shown that over 40% of all people leaving their jobs are following a path to passion, and those recent graduates looking for their first jobs are not interested in high-paying hourly roles as much as they are looking for career potential. 

This means that increasing salary is not the only way to retain employees. In fact, you might not be able to do anything to keep some of your best employees on staff. While you can’t control the loss you can positively impact it. Employers can create career pathers and learning programs that show employees how they can continue to improve their skill set.  

How to Use What We’ve Learned to Lead Through The New Variant.

1. Be prepared for continued change.

There isn’t a “one size fits all” solution to return to work plans. What we thought might work for a January 2022 reopening might look different today. What’s important is that as an organization, you’re aware of the flexibility needed to achieve your desired outcome for return to work plans. 

Perhaps this means extending work from home capabilities further into 2022 and providing your teams with the necessary tools they need to continue working from home. As noted above, a working mom or someone caring for a sick relative will have different needs and challenges than someone who lives alone. Being aware and anticipating these needs will ensure your policies are equitable and inclusive. 

2. Find benefits that improve the financial standings of all of your employees.

The best advice I can offer is to listen to your employees! As an employer, it’s your responsibility to support your team and ensure that they have the essential tools needed to perform their job. This doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re in need of the latest Microsoft software — it could mean that they’re in need of innovative benefits that support their long-term wellbeing and their families at home. 

According to a recent study commissioned by the Funding Our Future coalition and DailyPay, a vast majority are turning to their employers for retirement assistance. Eighty-seven percent of employed Americans say that it is very important that their employer offers a retirement savings program, such as a 401(k) account. These benefits are so important that 67% of employed Americans —and 79% of employed parents of children under 18— say that they would be very or somewhat likely to switch employers if their current employer did not offer a retirement savings program. 

Tuition reimbursement, flexible hours, childcare coverage, signing bonuses, gym memberships, on-demand pay and free lunch are among the benefits companies are implementing to support their employees.

3. Proactively combat burnout.

The first step is to listen to your employees and understand their needs. After that, it’s about taking action. There are various ways to combat burnout and keep employees as productive as they can be. It’s imperative to consider their day-to-day schedules. Are your employees spending more hours on Zoom meetings than not? Do they have enough time blocked out to get their tasks completed? One thing I implemented on my team is “no meeting Fridays.” I’m encouraging employees to focus on work that they need to accomplish on Friday to avoid having to carry over work into the next week and falling behind. 

What’s your no. 1 piece of advice for leading through the COVID-19 pandemic? Share your answer in the comments to help other Fairygodboss'ers!

This article was written by a Fairygodboss contributor.

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