I think it’s fair to say that, as we all adjust to the new world of work, everyone’s situation is unique. As an extrovert, I’m ready to return to the office the moment we are given the greenlight. But I know my coworkers are having a range of experiences: some are enjoying working from home while others need to take every health precaution necessary or are balancing a whole host of personal commitments, like caring for their children or other loved ones.

Needless to say, organizations are now tasked with the difficult job of balancing the various needs of their employees with the ongoing public health threat that COVID-19 presents. So how can people leaders take all of these variables into account while reimagining the world of work?

Reimagining the workplace

Terilyn Juarez Monroe, the chief people officer at the global cancer care organization Varian Medical Systems, shares her experience and offers one path forward. Terilyn has been spending her time understanding the different employee personas within the organization so she and her fellow leaders can prioritize who needs to return to the office and when. 

“I don’t think there are any solutions out there yet, but that’s the benefit of sharing across regions and sharing best practices,” she says. 

Varian has offices and manufacturing sites around the globe. Many of its manufacturing sites have remained opened during the pandemic, while other sites and offices are closed. Terilyn and her team have been working closely with local guidance to understand protocols so she can explain to employees why certain sites remained open, are opening, or are remaining closed. 

Varian also aligned with the G100 Network, which created a Return to Workplace Task Force. While Terilyn and other Varian leaders have been providing guidance to all of the organization’s sites, they have also empowered their local site leaders to use the G100 Network’s Return to Workplace nine-point plan to make decisions that put their employees first. The plan focuses on the first phase of bringing employees back to offices safely, advocating shared protocols across the business, and ensuring that the health and safety of employees comes first. And the G100 Network’s plan evolves based on surging COVID-19 cases.  

“Our biggest challenge is understanding what the workplace of the future will look like,” Terilyn says. “We need to create a place where people want to come and collaborate, learn, grow and connect with one another, all while keeping safe.”  She and her colleagues are balancing all of these variables while still keeping in mind Varian’s commitment to continue to innovate and grow. 

Crafting a people-centric strategy

Terilyn and her team have been relying heavily on the feedback employees are giving during this time, since decisions they made six weeks ago might need to change based on daily learnings and new insights from their people. Varian normally conducts organization-wide pulse surveys three times a year, but leaders have added crisis-specific pulses during the past few months to understand exactly how employees are feeling in each region. As a result of employee feedback, managers are learning how to adopt a mindset to give themselves permission to allow change, and remain flexible and agile. All employees were given LinkedIn Learning courses to learn new software skills that help with working from home, and managers were given courses on managing teams remotely, since only 16% of the organization was working remotely prior to the pandemic. 

Terilyn believes in having a vision, and remaining persistent and flexible are keys during this challenging time. She also firmly believes that we should all be learning and sharing from one another so we can think more broadly about how to reimagine the world of work. 

Want to learn more about reimagining the world of work? Check out our guidance

Hear directly from Terilyn on how Varian is approaching the new world of work, and watch the video below to learn more about Varian’s approach to employee engagement.