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The Workplace in the Face of Change

Updated: Oct 15, 2020

In January 2020 the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the outbreak of Covid-19 disease in the Hubei Province, China. Since then, the global spread of the virus has sparked an international chain reaction within all spheres of society, from K-12 Education institutes and corporate organisations.

What’s common across sectors, is the sudden need to be able to operate online and continue life as best we can….remotely. Business are inevitably going to find it more challenging to continue with “business as usual” under the current circumstances, if they lack the technology infrastructure and flexible working policies to work remotely.

Organisations have been asking Praxis, ‘How can we ensure that our organisations and employees remain safe, productive and connected when we’re working remotely?” Our response, is not so much about the technology, systems or procedures, but about the psychology of change.

Much of the reluctance to implementing remote work stems from a lack of trust and fear that employees might take advantage of the situation, slack off, be less attentive and therefore less productive. In fact, the research shows that people feel more productive when working from home and remote work can actually lead to a 13% performance increase.

So what is the real issue? Change.

Neurologically, ‘change’ triggers an amygdala response in our brain, which results in feelings of fear and uncertainty. Change can be frightening, especially when there is a perception of loss of control, a reaction which is just as much a challenge for employers as it is for employees. In fact, emotionally, we respond to change in exactly the same way we respond to grief!

The biggest hurdle for implementing a change, is that of commitment and buy in. If employees are going to buy in and commit to remote work, there needs to be a strong psychological contract. The psychological contract refers to the level of commitment of an employee towards the employer. Commitment will be stronger when employees understand why the change needs to happen and how they can help support it. The biggest agents of change in your organization are your employees. If you elicit their involvement and engage them in problem solving, promoting open communication, cooperation and the effective coordination of activities you are more likely to see commitment to respecting and following the rules, processes and procedures.

Studies show that we are more likely to commit to change when:

• It is clearly communicated, and our responsibilities are understood

• Commitment is sought and demonstrated at all levels

• We have had opportunity to provide our inputs

• Our feelings and needs have been considered

• Time is taken to address our issues and concerns

• We have some measure of control

• Our help is sought

• Positive change is rewarded

The strongest foundation you can build in order to ensure workplace preparedness and the success of remote work is trust. By placing a high priority on positive relationships, respect and trust, you are communicating to your employees that they are valued and contributing members of the team, regardless of where they are working from. Remote work doesn’t mean that we don’t respect and adhere to proper authority channels or hold people accountable for their performance, it just means we acknowledge and reward good behaviours and encourage personal responsibility to achieve goals. You can strengthen your presence and the feeling of connectedness for both of you, by encouraging employees to frequently check-in via video or phone conversations, with their colleagues and with you. This may ensure they feel more connected, despite being physically separated from their teams.

So when working with your teams in these unprecedented times, pay close attention not only to the policy and procedure, but how you can strengthen the psychological contract with your employees, build trust and commitment.

Do you have a knowledge gap you need to address? Speak to Praxis about how we can help.

Knowledge | Reflection | Action

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