"Post-lockdown work", by Gaël Chatelain-Berry (EDHEC Master 1992)

Published on 11/05/2020
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Gaël Chatelain-Berry (EDHEC Master 1992), is an author (Mon boss est nul, mais je le soigne ou Je me trouve nul(le), mais je me kiffe...), lecturer and columnist conférencier for Psychologies Magazine & French TV channel LCI. Last week in a LinkedIn article he analyzed the changes of the workplace and job market after the lockdown. Feel free to share your expertise on our EDHEC Alumni official group on LinkedIn too!

 

"Countries everywhere are easing their lockdowns little by little. It’s France’s turn on 11 May. This is a source of anxiety for some and of joy for others, as a survey I ran for my blog last week showed.

Personally I have mixed feelings: it depends on the day – and especially on the amount of information I have about what comes after 11 May. Fears often stem from what we don’t know, what we can’t control.

 

At the moment I’m running a survey on the level of information in businesses, and the initial findings are worrying, very worrying. The definitive results will be published on Friday morning but at the time of writing fewer than 30% of employees believe their company has kept them adequately informed about what happens after 11 May. There are two possible explanations for this:

  • either companies haven’t been communicating their plans for the return after lockdown: easy to change
  • or they don’t know what’s going to happen: urgent need to prepare

One thing is absolutely certain: nothing will ever be as it was before 17 March, when the lockdown in France began.

 

Teleworking will play a key role, of course. Only 16% of businesses have teleworking agreements in place, but since the orders issued by President Macron, companies don’t need one to allow staff to work from home: a simple email from one’s supervisor is all it takes. Among the precautions we need to take until a vaccine can be found, teleworking is essential.

1-   For health reasons
2-   For our well-being. We will finally know what it really means to work from home, out of choice, not necessarily 100% and, above all, without our youngest playing cowboys & Indians next to us during video conferences!

It will be important to draw up tele-working schedules. Not everyone can work from home at the same time, just as everyone can’t be physically present at the same time. IMPORTANT:

Example: marketing department (10 people) and sales department (10 people). These two departments interact a lot, so what’s the best approach?

Week 1:

  • Monday: 3 people from marketing, 3 from sales
  • Tuesday: 10 people from marketing: we need team members present. It is essential to re-establish links, for real, and above all ensure that everyone is mentally well.
  • Wednesday: 3 people from marketing, 3 from sales
  • Thursday: 10 people from sales
  • Friday: 4 people from marketing, 3 from sales

Instead of 100 journeys per week, there will only be 40! Of course, the number of people present can be set at a minimum of 30%.

 

“Happiness depends on freedom, and freedom depends on courage”, Pericles

 

Careful organization is THE solution for a successful return to work post-lockdown. Indeed, I applaud companies like Veolia for their efforts (testing + taking temperatures). Of course, this does not override the necessary precautions, but it does lower anxiety levels when you know that the person next to you in your office isn’t infected.

Managers will play an essential role in the success – or failure – of the end of lockdown.

On 11 may, it won’t be like returning from a long weekend. 47% of employees are showing symptoms of depression, and all this will have to be managed! FIRST THING TO DO: share our lockdown stories. All team members must be able to share their experience, their impressions of this two-month period, and then talk about current emotions, express their fears, face those fears. Ideally, this week or in the days following the end of the lockdown, an in-house assessment should be made using very simple digital tools like Zest or SuperMood. Every business should make it their priority to determine the psychological state of their staff. It would be a mistake to descend on staff and pull out the big guns to “make up for lost time”. WE’LL NEVER MAKE UP FOR IT!

 

Employees feel acute anxiety at the idea of being put under huge pressure. Companies who take such an approach run several major risks:

  • Immediate demotivation. If your car hasn’t driven for months, it’s best to do a quick service before a long journey if you don’t want to break down after 10 km. The same is true for employees. Demanding 100% as if nothing had happened is unrealistic AND dangerous.
  • Mass resignations: many employees are looking for a change in direction, and a company that lacks benevolence this Monday will run the risk of exacerbating this trend.

Today more than ever, we are realising that humans are at the centre of EVERYTHING, literally. The wave of suicides at France Telecom and Renault in 2008 was the first sign, and now the pandemic has twisted the blade: without employees in good health, nothing is possible; without employees who can perform on all hierarchical levels, nothing is possible.

One of the major challenges is that we will have to combat everyone’s fears, some of them rational, some of them not! What the company has to say will be essential! Ideally, if it hasn’t already been done, businesses should communicate this week about how they intend to look after their employees, not put them in danger.

And to do this, all employees must understand in concrete terms how the return to work will unfold:

  • Disinfect offices every day
  • 4m2 per employee or masks made mandatory
  • Is this the end of the flexioffice? For now at least
  • Staggered working hours
  • Lifts? What do you do if you work on the 40th floor of a skyscraper?
  • Meeting rooms?
  • Corridors?
  • Canteens?
  • What about air conditioning?

It is possible to protect against the coronavirus! South Korea has managed it: population of 51 million, no lockdown, only 252 deaths since the beginning. WE CAN DO IT TOO… it’s up to us.

I encourage you to read the National protocol for businesses on easing the lockdown to safeguard staff health & safety, where you will find all the best practices to implement as quickly as possible.

Even the canteen can operate; just look what the South Koreans are doing.

Talking, training staff (on-site or via webinar), designating one member of each team to oversee the return from lockdown ... these are all things that will help us through this. The virus won’t jump on top of you without warning if you strictly observe the necessary precautions. I think the real urgency is to forget our fears and be confident that our behaviour is exemplary.

 

Of course, we could also listen to the Cassandras telling us the end of the world is nigh. Who knows? What I do know is that humanity has always found a way to move forward and adapt since the beginning of time.

Yes, these are fraught times, but frankly, although I’m no expert, when I see how some Asian countries successfully manage epidemics without going into lockdown, I’m convinced we can pull through this! Scratch that, for I am an eternal optimist: we will pull through this."

Gaël Chatelain-Berry

 

Further reading:

1- Coronavirus : le positif que nous allons en tirer
2- 5 techniques pour arriver de bonne humeur au travail chaque matin

CONFERENCES: If you would like information on holding a conference, in French or English, in your company, click here.

PODCAST: “Happy Work”, my weekly podcast for news channel LCI.

TRAINING: learn about my free training in benevolent management on LinkedIn Learning

BOOKS: Mais qui a tué BoB ?, Les 10 commandements de la bienveillance en entreprise, Mon boss est nul, mais je le soigne, Je me trouve nul(le), mais je me kiffe, La Voleuse de vies

Career change? Moving house?