Leaders in every sector are facing one of the biggest challenges in their careers: getting employees to return to the office while a deadly pandemic slowly and unpredictably resolves. In addition to preparing the physical workspace, they must be ready to address the psychological issues that may arise in a setting where employees feel anxious or at risk.
Helping executives over these hurdles is esteemed organizational psychologist and Boston University Questrom School of Business Professor Constance Hadley. Her research, speaking and advisory roles focus on building a culture of psychological safety, trust, teamwork and well-being in the workplace. As organizations design processes around the future of work, Dr. Hadley works closely with leaders, helping them understand how the decisions they make today may impact their culture and strategy tomorrow.
“My goal is always to translate knowledge into practice. That requires me to really engage with my audience and meet them where they are,” says Hadley, whose previous experience working as a management consultant at McKinsey & Company, and in marketing and operations at General Mills, sharpened her skills as an organizational change expert. “I do not provide textbook answers, but I do offer unique research insights, case examples, and cautionary tales to help leaders understand the issues and see a path forward.”
As firms grapple with return-to-work scenarios, Hadley sees problems – and solutions – around both the hybrid and permanently remote models. In either case, she says organizations will need to be more deliberate about how they structure policies, staff teams, manage meetings and set expectations. She recently shared a vision of organizations operating as a “league of teams” with a focus on prioritizing and coordinating team interactions so that better work-life balance can be achieved post-pandemic.
And when it comes to ensuring employee compliance with COVID-19 safety rules in the office, Hadley advises leaders to proceed with caution to avoid undermining their culture. As she explains in Forbes, it is crucial that organizations approach the return to the office “with a primary focus on psychological safety as well as physical safety. Without both, employees might just as well stay home.”