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What next for workplace teams?

Chris Attoe talks through how to think about addressing challenges as teams in the workplace going through and beyond COVID-19

Chris starts by highlighting two important considerations: the need to look ahead and consider how teams may be affected beyond COVID-19, and the need to acknowledge that there will be challenges and uncertainty.

The COVID-19 pandemic and lockdown were seemingly thrust upon us with little warning (whether this should have been the case or not). However, as we adapt to the current circumstances, we may have more opportunity to prepare for the future. However this may still be more reactive, with less time and less control than we might like.

Let’s run with the example from Susan that Chris mentioned, which we examined last week.

In Week 2, Susan’s story highlighted to us that her organisation may have taken a strategic approach to work relationships and connections. This included her manager reaching out to her, and her team meeting regularly to organise their work and social activities available online.

Is is likely that this approach was developed rapidly with little planning. Consider now that Susan’s team and manager have the opportunity to think ahead about work relationships and connections, and how they may change beyond COVID-19.
People returning to the office may be staggered or phased, some people may work from home more regularly, and teams may need to be restructured if their work has changed. Regardless of exactly what change happens, there is an opportunity to prepare for it.
  • This could involve ‘noticing’ and acknowledging (by management) that there will be more changes to come.
  • Teams may agree with a blended approach to social activities, some online and some in person.
  • Managers could prepare for in-person meetings that require multiple people dialling in remotely
The list could go on. But the principle of this example is that we may have the opportunity to reflect on and plan what may happen next, even in uncertain times. We may even have gained a helpful insight into our team and their preferences having gone through this together.
Once again, we should highlight that approaches should be locally tailored and driven to provide the best outcomes for staff and teams.
However, these approaches can link back to the content we’ve already covered in Weeks 1 and 2. These can be applied beyond COVID-19 and the current challenges, such as:
  • Managers noticing, acknowledging, and holding contradictions or providing containment for teams. This may relate specifically to situations involving challenging emotions.
  • Managers considering the needs, challenges, and resources of their teams. This Organisational Psychology approach includes the positive or ‘resources’ aspect.
  • Leaders thinking about the needs of their teams in more detail, possibly using a personal, social, and work-related framework for these considerations (which can be both team or individual).
  • Targeting the specific factors that we know play a significant role in workplace wellbeing, including working relationships, work-life balance, role clarity and autonomy, team systems and processes, and workload or work ‘design’.
Have you thought about the needs of your team as you emerge from COVID-19? What could you or your team do to plan ahead? Do any of the approaches covered sound particularly appealing?
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COVID-19: Psychological Impact, Wellbeing and Mental Health

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