No matter how hard you try to avoid them, workplace problems are inevitable. It doesn’t matter if you have a solid strategy in place or a team of superstars to execute it. As more companies adopt hybrid work models, new problems will no doubt crop up that workplace teams will need to solve.
Luckily, you can minimize the number of incidents and the impact they have on your hybrid workforce and business. To do this, you’ll need to get ahead of workplace issues before they evolve into major problems. Here are some tactics that’ll help you do that.
Spot problems early
Most problems don’t appear out of thin air. More often than not, there are warning signs that hint at emerging issues. By keeping an eye out for these signals, you can tackle challenges before they become more complex and disruptive. Some things to look out for include:
- Processes not being followed – e.g., Employees not booking desks through your tool or forgetting to complete your health attestation form.
- Receiving more than a couple of questions about the same thing – e.g., People may ask how to use workplace technology or who will be on-site on a certain day.
- A workplace team member overwhelmed with work – e.g., Someone that oversees multiple large projects has missed several deadlines and has been less communicative.
If you have a phased approach to bringing people back to the workplace, spotting these issues early will ensure your team can improve them before more employees return. It’s handy to have a system in place to keep track of workplace issues as they come up.
A shared spreadsheet or project management tool works well. (Asana and monday.com are good options.) Have your team log new problems and make sure to meet on a weekly basis to update the status of each one. You can assign a label or traffic light color to each potential issue and address those that pose a more imminent risk.
But what about preventing problems from developing in the first place? Workplace analytics enable you to anticipate if more people plan to come on-site than you can support on a given day. This will ensure your team has enough space and amenities to support people in the workplace. It’ll also help you see the most popular times to come into work. Knowing this, you can advise employees who need to do heads-down work to come in on days when fewer people are there.
When you implement a new solution or process it’s good practice to consider ways it could go wrong. This may seem like pessimistic thinking, but it can put your team a few steps ahead of an issue if one arises. This forward-thinking approach is sometimes called a premortem.
Once you have a plan in place, ask each of your team members to come up with one or two ways that plan could go awry. You may even find it helpful to have someone on your property management team join to broaden your perspective. Documenting possible scenarios will sensitize your team to spot risks sooner. A premortem will also prepare your team to expect that plans may change. This reduces friction and helps you embrace an agile working style that can pivot directions fast if needed.
For example, you may have thought through capacity issues related to your workplace. But what about your building’s reduced elevator capacity? During busy times, people may get held up in the lobby waiting for a lift. To prevent issues, ask your building manager which times of the week the lobby is busiest. On those days, limit the number of people who can come into the workplace. Or, schedule people to come in a bit later to avoid the crowded lobby.
Create a backup plan
Along the same lines of thinking about hypothetical situations, always have a backup plan. Plans change and things break, whether it’s problems with employee workplace schedules, staff changes, vendor mishaps, or building issues. To plan for unforeseen events, develop a written backup plan for any major projects. It should include:
- What events need to happen to trigger the backup plan.
- The who, what, where, when, and how. Who’s responsible for overseeing this plan? Who will help? What do they need to do? When does it need to happen? Where will it take place? How will they do it?
- Clear communication guidelines that outline how often stakeholders should be updated, who should update them, and how they’ll update them. If it makes sense to update employees, you should include details around that process as well.
Finally, make sure all stakeholders who’ll be involved in executing the backup plan are aware of their roles and agree to do them. Be sure to get buy-in from other teams if you’ll rely on them to execute the plan.
It may be a while until your workplace operates smoothly. Don’t worry; this is normal. It’s an opportunity to continue to iterate and improve the hybrid workplace and support your company’s flexible working model. Remember, solving workplace problems fast is key to getting more people to come back on-site. If you work on creating a great experience for the employees who are already back, more people will want to return.