With vaccinations rolling out across the globe, the public, James River Capital included, is cautiously optimistic about a mask-free future amid the pandemic. However, organizations and employees still have justified fears about COVID-19 as we adjust to this new normal.
But what about the next normal? What’s the next step for organizations as they bridge the gap between full-time remote work and a return to the office?
The leadership team at James River Capital predicts that, although we’re still living through dangerous times, there is a light at the end of the tunnel. More workers are returning to the office as appropriate and necessary, and businesses are resuming operations as carefully as possible.
Although remote work definitely has its benefits, culture and innovation may require some in-person collaboration. Even once your team is back at the office in some way, you must change the way you work to accommodate post-pandemic life. Paul Sanders from James River Capital shares his insights on how organizations can most effectively segue into safe operations post-pandemic.
About James River Capital
Along with his business partner, Paul Saunders acquired James River Capital back in 1995. In the 25 years since founding the company, Paul has served as CEO and Chairman of the Richmond, Virginia, company.
Today, Paul puts his 30+ years of experience in finance to work for James River Capital’s products. His goal is to balance and diversify his portfolios to attempt to optimize returns and reduce risk. With products comprised of alternative investments, James River Capital relies on its many decades in the business to access talented managers with limited allocation.
5 recommendations for post-pandemic management
Like many businesses, James River Capital went remote to stay as productive as possible at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. If your business is beginning to resume in-person operations, you need to transform your office experience to accommodate this new normal.
Over time, it may be safe to ease up on mask restrictions and social distancing in your area, but for now, Paul Sanders and James River Capital shares five suggestions for employees returning to the office.
1 – Be flexible
Long gone are the days when managers could nickel and dime their employees’ hours. Your team is working hard enough as it is; stop requiring your team to punch a clock and track their time down to the minute.
Allow for flexible start and end times. Instead of measuring performance in terms of time spent in front of the computer, evaluate employees based on their performance. If their output is suffering, focus on that instead of the time they spend at work.
Now is the time to be flexible with your team’s time. For example, if an employee chooses to get vaccinated, offer them extra sick leave for their vaccine appointment.
James River Capital points out that some employers are instituting unlimited PTO. The last thing you want is an employee coming to work sick. Unlimited PTO relieves that pressure and keeps your team as healthy as possible. Be sure to set an example in your culture that it’s okay to take PTO as needed.
2 – Host safe team building events
In spite of your best efforts, you’ve probably realized how difficult it is to build culture over Zoom calls. While that’s a safe way to connect as a team, sometimes your employees want face-to-face interaction. In many cases, it’s possible to do this, but with many safety precautions in place.
For COVID-19-safe events, consider:
- Hosting a gathering outside.
- Requiring masks and social distancing.
- Catering pre-portioned food or drinks.
- Planning touch-free activities like charades, scavenger hunts, or trivia.
Also, scheduling an event during nights or weekends capitalizes on time that your team needs to recover from work. If you want to increase attendance and engagement, consider hosting your social gathering during work hours.
3 – Respect employee needs
While the CDC offers recommendations to prevent the spread of coronavirus, it seems like every person has their own set of preferences. As a leader, you need to respect your employees’ comfort levels as much as possible. For example, if an employee has a medical condition and fears COVID-19 exposure, it might be best for them to continue working remotely.
Respect everyone’s boundaries as much as possible and offer reasonable accommodations when you can. That might mean:
- Requiring masks (or face shields) at all times.
- Not requiring employees to return to the office if they’re able to work remotely.
- Enacting cleaning protocols for shared common areas.
- Not requiring travel for work. If travel is absolutely necessary, consider limiting employee contact as much as possible. That might mean buying two rental cars instead of one, for example.
Every employee has a different comfort level. Follow CDC and local guidelines, but also consult your team to see what measures would make them feel safe and supported upon returning to the office.
4 – Change up your office space
Physical spaces must change to reduce the spread of disease. The traditional office environment is far too conducive to the spread of germs. Consult your leadership team to implement sweeping changes to your physical footprint, which can include:
- Outdoor gathering spaces: Make your outdoor space as comfortable and safe as possible, offering shade, seating, and tables.
- Separating desks: Open office plans are terrible for employee productivity, anyway. Convert shared desk spaces into separated areas, whether with cubicles or plexiglass.
- Ending hot desking: Instead of using hot-desking, which can spread germs, use a dedicated desk system. If that’s not possible with your real estate and team size, stagger when employees come into the office. Hire a professional cleaning crew to sanitize all desks between shift changes.
- Enhancing your video equipment: Some employees will be more comfortable continuing to meet virtually, albeit from their desk at work. If that’s the case, make sure your team is equipped with high-quality cameras and microphones for better conferencing.
When in doubt, consult your employees. Gather their feedback to propose the most effective changes to your physical space.
5 – Adjust your workflow
Although COVID-19 was devastating to business, it forced many organizations to change. James River Capital recommends that leaders see post-pandemic life not as a headache, but as an opportunity. Now’s the time to identify inefficiencies and get a fresh start.
As some of your team returns to the office, revisit your work processes. For example, does everyone need to be in the office 100% of the time? Or maybe it’s best if the team meets in-person for brainstorming and client calls, working remotely for the execution portion of the project?
Consider shortening the default length of meetings at your organization. Chances are, your team is already experiencing Zoom fatigue, and in-person meetings won’t help, either. Use Parkinson’s Law to host more productive meetings in less time. Try shortening your meetings from 60 minutes to 30 minutes—you’ll be amazed at how much time you save.
The bottom line
Post-pandemic work requires transformation. As a leader, you’re responsible for rethinking your processes, physical space, and workflow. We can’t expect life to ever truly return to “normal,” but providing structure and reliability during this time will help your team feel most supported. When it’s time to greet post-pandemic operations, follow James River Capital’s five suggestions to keep everyone safe and productive.