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Reopening the workplace and developing next-generation leadership in times of change

By 5 April 2022Articles

By Jerome Zoutman, Operations Manager at DYNA Training

COVID-19 has changed more than just the way we live and interact with the world around us; it also altered the very fabric of our workplaces. Management will now need to learn how to deal with change to lead effectively in this new era,  and must be equipped with the emotional resilience to create a genuine culture of support and understanding for employees. Flexibility, empathy, and adaptability will be needed in bucket loads to support staff remotely and in the office, being particularly mindful of both the personal and professional ups and downs that employees face. To address uncertainty, it is critical for managers to hone their emotional intelligence (EQ) capabilities to lead their teams back to their place of work and out of a crisis.

Leadership is an action, not a position

I have learned that if there’s one thing that matters in times like these, it’s leadership. For many organisations with fragile futures, the right kind of leadership matters more than ever as we attempt to pick up the pieces and rebuild our economy. Throughout the pandemic, I’ve seen first-hand how certain leadership traits and approaches have made the difference between failure and survival. These leadership traits will also be essential in resuscitating and reviving struggling supply channels, product lines and even entire industries.

Returning to the workplace

Lockdown restrictions have been lifted and vaccination numbers are climbing. With this comes the inevitable return to the physical working world, which fills most people with a huge sense of anxiety. We’ve lived so long now sheltered at home, working from home, and avoiding contact with the outside world, that going back to an office with full human contact will be a huge adjustment. It’s back into office politics, worrying about appearances and giving up control over our daily productivity that we’ve enjoyed when working from home.

Back to reality

We’re leaving our sweatpants and comfort zones, and once again having to deal with the grind of the daily commute and everything that comes with it. Time previously spent with family or running errands must now be spent in traffic. Petrol keeps getting more expensive, and parents are having to make alternative childcare arrangements if they’re no longer working from home. The possibility of achieving a work-life balance is much tougher now than it was before the pandemic. How do these employee challenges affect the businesses they work for? It’s no longer a case of “leave your problems at home when you come to work”. The stress and anxiety that people deal with can only follow them into the workplace and will result in absenteeism, reduced productivity, workplace conflict, and low staff morale. There will be a disconnect between teams, and between management and staff members.

It’s a long battle ahead, training is essential

I’ve seen, time and time again, that the only way to avoid the situation spiralling out of control is to focus on flexibility, candid communication and the prioritisation of mental and emotional health. But how can the business strike that balance between raising the energy levels of the individual to improve productivity through positive engagement and a collaborative approach? Here, managers cannot be expected to offer teams adequate support and understanding without adequate training and EQ skills development. Best Management Skills (BMS) training is critical to connect and reconnect, through transparent, candid communications and active listening skills.

This kind of training is ideal for management, from line managers all the way up through the hierarchy. It equips individuals with the ability to communicate by creating connections, and gives leaders the necessary tools to engage with emotional intelligence. Equipped with specific leadership approaches, managers can be taught how to navigate each situation based on the individual they encounter in such a manner as to get the best out of their teams right down to a personal level.

The outcomes of blended learning methods in BMS training

Intended to facilitate manager and staff engagement, I’ve seen how this type of training genuinely supports that connection between managers and their teams. It also facilitates self-improvement for managers, as they’re given practical tools on how to improve personally while getting the best out of those who report to them as managers. Lastly, and most importantly, these blended learning methods result in managers who are equipped to overcome the barriers and hurdles preventing engagement in the workplace, fostering a collaborative approach that moves beyond blame-shifting to positive, collaborative problem solving.

People are more than skill sets

Leaders are taught how to overcome both the emotional and functional challenges that their people face. As I see it, this is particularly important, given the fact that people have both an emotional and a functional commitment towards their employment. Maximising the functional commitment of an individual is impossible without taking care of their emotional and mental health needs as well. Here, it’s important for companies to understand that they’ve hired people, and not just skill sets. People come with their own unique needs and challenges. This means we need to be asking: what can the business do to support them on a personal level that will result in being better employees at work? How can we be more flexible and mindful of the transition from home office to office park? Ultimately, it’s all about helping leaders to facilitate their people on their journey to find and achieve work-life purpose. While balance is not always attainable, it’s important to ensure that there is purpose to work and life, and that there is time for both.



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