16th Jun 2021
3 Min Read

Four ways to create fairness for a fatigued front line

Lindsay Kohler
Lindsay Kohler
People & Change

The language around hybrid working isn’t inclusive of the workplace experience for front-line workers. Too often, we’re hearing too much about ‘returning to the office’ when that just isn’t the experience of hundreds of thousands of employees.

While billions have been invested in improving the experience for remote workers, or for teams working in different locations, what about those employees whose working environment at the front line hasn’t changed?

What are we putting in place to keep their experience positive? Could they have more flexibility, benefits and extra development days, to make sure the ‘them and us’ divide doesn’t widen? And how can internal communicators help create a sense of cultural cohesion?

Tackling the elephant in the room: fairness

A rift opened between those who got to work at home, and those who had to work on site each day. Some thought office workers were in their back garden sipping gin all day. Working from home began to be viewed as a perk – and an unfair one at that.

So, how do we begin to tackle this friction to make work feel fairer for the front line, before it turns into a schism?

Motive matters

Employees will make up their own minds about the reasons behind their supervisor or employer’s actions, even the fair ones. (We all get suspicious sometimes.) And these beliefs about underlying motives can impact how these actions are received by employees.

So, is the policy or benefit change because the employer thinks it’s the right thing to do? Because a supervisor is maintaining their own image? Because the company wants compliance so they can better perform? Different motive attributions can impact performance.

Carrots or sticks?

Fairness can sometimes be perceived as handing out punishment or reward. Think back to when you were a kid in school, and someone got a treat as a reward. “But that’s not fair”, you thought. “Why did they get that?” Employers need to think if some of their decisions around returning to the office unintentionally reward some part of the workforce while harming another.

Consider the increase or decrease in behaviours you might see as a result of fair or unfair behaviour. These include cooperation, reciprocation, engagement, emotion-driven behaviour and other work-critical interactions. When decisions feel unfair, you might see a lack of cooperation, a drop in performance, a decrease in trust, lashing out at colleagues or superiors, and more.

Four ways to create fairness for a fatigued front line:

1. Say thank you

Your people might be struggling with difficult customers and lingering Covid-19 health anxieties. A little recognition can go a long way. This doesn’t have to be extravagant. A hand-written note from a manager or a gift card can be the little motivational pick-me-up that’s just what’s needed.

2. Offer special perks for front-line workers

Could you offer front-line workers an extra week of holiday? Are there areas for flexibility you haven’t yet explored? Taking time off to recharge and having more control over our day are two of the best ways to combat burnout and fatigue. Yes, these perks come with a price tag – but the productivity and motivational boosts will likely far outweigh the cost.

3. Practice active listening

With all the upcoming changes your people have gone through and will continue to go through, they want to be heard more than ever. Therefore, your leaders need to listen. Active listening is the key to getting the most out of a conversation.

4. Take advantage of the connection opportunities being onsite provides

Enjoy bringing people together on-site – make moments to connect happen. Pizza Fridays. A live music performance each month. Get creative! These exclusive moments of connection and fun can provide a big morale boost.

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