Focus on People, Not Productivity

Published by


7:00am. Get up. Get showered. Get breakfast. Get coffee. Yes, all the coffee.

8:00am. Commute. Ugh.

9:00am. Hello, old friend. (My workspace…at the office.)

9:02am. This is kinda weird. Everyone is so quiet. Tina and Yvette aren’t hugging and chatting. Carol and Frank aren’t sharing weekend stories. I thought people would be happy to finally see each other again IRL, feeling free to be out and about again. None of that.

9:05am. Things are weird, definitely different. I wonder what this week will be like.

9:10am. Email from Rob. Welcome back! It feels good to be back in the office, right? Let’s do lunch. Best, Rob.

9:11. Well, some things are still the same.

Soon we will all be getting back to the office or shop or factory or wherever we worked before the COVID quarantine. It’s going to be awkward.

One thing is for sure. We are all going to need a little space to readjust, re-acclimate, and reform back into our “normal” work style.

If you’re a leader, you need to be aware that this transition back to work will take some time to run smoothly like it did before. You need to understand that everyone still has stuff going on in their lives that is different from two months ago.

Know that productivity is not your top priority right now. People are your number one point of attention.

People are figuring out what to do with their kids while they are at work. (Childcare might not be running yet or not at full capacity.)

  • People are scared they might get sick.
  • People wonder if the office is cleaned properly.
  • People speculate how secure their jobs are.
  • People worry how the office environment will be different now.
  • People are skeptical of how the relationship with their boss will be.
  • And so many other things.

These are all natural human thoughts, feelings, and responses to change. And this is abrupt change. Again. Twice. In two months!

So what are you going to do to make sure people feel safe, secure, trusted, respected, valued, and looked after?

It’s easy. All you have to do is
put your people first.

Focus on what they need. Listen to what they say. Pay attention to body language. Ask them how they are doing? Better yet, ask them how you can help.

Here are some quick tips on specific things you can do to ease re-entry to work.

  1. Arrive early the first day to greet everyone as they arrive.
  2. Be visibly available more often.
  3. Walk around and see people at their desks. (follow distancing protocols)
  4. Ask each team member how they are coping at home.
  5. Ask what they are doing for self-care.
  6. Ask what they are looking forward to in the next few days and weeks.
  7. Be encouraging and enthusiastic about the times ahead.
  8. Tell each team member how much you appreciate them.
  9. Acknowledge each team member for their diligence while working through the struggle of the quarantine.
  10. Validate each team member’s feelings when they share with you how hard it has been for them. (everyone will have a story)

After you’ve done all of these things (and you really should do all of them), consider the following areas that will now be even more important than before.

  1. Watch for new silos that pop up. They could have formed on the side while everyone was out of the office.
  2. Be especially aware and responsive to diversity and inclusion issues. People from different cultures see things differently and may have been treated differently during the crisis.
  3. Be open to requests for work/life balance. Some people will still be struggling with kids at home. Others may find working from home less stressful and/or more productive.
  4. Focus on a one to three-month mission for the department. You may need to re-prioritize tasks, goals, or assignments during the transition.
  5. Work harder than ever on building trust with each team member. People have had a long leash while working from home, don’t yank it back and destroy all that goodwill. Be patient and show empathy by being there for them.

Give autonomy, seek input, be available,
share stories, be optimistic.

Thanks to Laszlo Bock, Stefanie Tignor, and all the good folks at Humu for inspiring me to write this post.

Your Mindful Moment:

Focus on your people and productivity will follow.

%d bloggers like this: