Getting the Teams Back Together

Teams are returning, and the workplace is not the same as when they left. There are risks of conflict and resentment within the team. As an HR professional or leader, how might you get the team back together? How might you move them from resentment and fear into appreciation and high performance? This blog explores the conversations you could have that will accelerate the transition from a returning team into a high performing team.

Your teams are coming back

Are you one of the HR managers or leaders that are sitting there going “Oh my God, people are going to come back to work; how do we reconnect them to a team that may have been separated through either furlough, working remotely or working hybrid”?  

You have one group of staff who may have been working full time during the pandemic lockdown, then another group may have been furloughed and not working but being paid either all, or most of, their salary. So, there is a potential conflict when these two groups come back together about what have you been doing during lockdown?

I think that's an important consideration about how we can reconnect these different people with different experiences into a team that's cohesive and working as effectively and as quickly as possible.  

Another challenge may be those people who have been working from home and, I would think, don't really want to go back to the workplace.  “I'm happier at home, I prefer working from home and it's been quite good” Other people may be “Do you know what, I've been at home now and had enough; I miss some of the social interactions and am really looking forward to getting back to work”. 

Meet the needs

So how can your teams then get back together in a way that meets the needs of those people who want to work from home predominantly can and the people that want to work in the office, if it's safe to do so, can as well - and how can they agree to work together? 

I think these are some of the challenges that are facing leaders in HR at the moment and over the next coming months; and, to me, the answer is to try to get solutions down to the smallest unit possible - which is the teams. The teams know the best way to work and the teams understand the individual needs within that team rather than there being a ‘top-down’ approach.

So, as HR professionals within the organisation, ask yourself “what are we doing to help support this?” and, as a leader, “what am I doing to help my team become coherent again?”  All these conflicting needs, wants and potential conflict - “How am I going to manage this effectively and lead these people through this change?”

Get the whole system involved

In my mind, one of the easiest ways to do that is to sit down and have a conversation with the team. If you want the system to change - in this case a team, then get the whole team involved in discussions about how that should happen. Firstly, you've got to move from this potential conflict to appreciation. 

One of the easiest ways to do that is have a conversation about what was the experiences of people during lockdown. What was the biggest, positive takeaway they got from lockdown? What strengths have they uncovered about themselves during lockdown and moving forward, what have they learnt about themselves or how they work that is important to them and they want to keep. 

Having those conversations with your team means that everyone in the team will now understand where everyone comes from and appreciate the pressures and the experiences people have had during lockdown, and then understand what's important to us as individuals; or how we might want to work moving forward with what we want to keep - so it's not throwing everything out.

Then you can have a conversation about “okay, so we know where we all are; we know what's important to us and what we discovered about ourselves during lockdown. So how can we, as a team, utilise what's important to us and what we want to keep to ensure that we work more effectively, connect better and communicate more effectively than we did before”.

Opportunity to reimagine

You're looking at the opportunities that it provides us to reimagine how we work and to move forward; and if you think about that, what that does is democratises the decision-making process within the team. It creates an individual understanding within the team about where everybody is.  It creates a pathway of moving forward that might be different from team to team, which is okay, as long as those ways of working are about delivering what the organisation needs - meeting the needs and individual desires of the team. 

Those conversations are the ones I think leaders and HR people should be having within the organisation to help prepare the teams and the organisation itself for how we can move forward, how can we work differently than we did before; because we're not going back, we are going forward. 

If we have the conversation about moving forward rather than moving back, then it moves us away from returning to how we were and that sort of regression; and look at what we've learned about ourselves, about how we work as an organisation, how we work as individuals. what's important to us, what we have uncovered about ourselves and how we can build on that to improve how we move forward. 

That's my thoughts about the conversations that we should be having as HR Professionals and Leaders in the coming weeks and months to help plan and embed this new way of working and accept that this could be different amongst teams within the same organisation as each team's makeup is different, what it does is different and the needs of team members are different.