Like many global companies, we’re considering how best to bring employees back into the workplace as some countries begin to return to some semblance of normalcy. We recognize things will need to be different. Some call it the “new normal,” but I prefer another phrase I’ve heard recently, the “next normal.” Because, if you think about it, businesses have been adapting to the “next normal” throughout history. The way we work today is vastly different than the way we worked just 50 years ago.
At Herbalife Nutrition, there are a few key principles we follow, such as offering personalized nutrition programs and individualized support, understanding and promoting the importance of community, servant leadership and, most importantly, building trust in all we do. I believe these same core principles are what will help us, as well as other companies, adapt to the next normal and create a workplace that is even stronger and more engaged than it was before the pandemic disrupted all areas of our lives.
Personalized Programs and Individual Support
Employees have unique needs and circumstances which must be considered as we return to our workplaces. The last year has proven that many businesses, including ours, can be flexible and operate successfully with employees working remotely. As an executive team, we expect our leaders to listen to their employees first, determine their unique circumstances and how to meet them, and then balance what’s best for their teams with the requirements of the business. Listening to employees and providing greater flexibility in how and where they work is part of servant leadership. As part of the effort to listen to our employees we have an engagement strategy utilizing brief pulse surveys. The feedback provides us with employee insights and actionable feedback that we take into consideration when making business decisions.
Servant leadership is at the heart of our culture. Helping others succeed is a fundamental principle that companies would do well to adhere to. We want our leaders to put employees first, but just directing them to make workplace decisions with their servant leader hats on is not enough. We need to help them succeed by providing them with “flexibility within a framework,” giving them the tools and training they need to navigate the next normal.
That’s why we’ve developed a decision-making matrix that considers feasibility and portability of positions as they plan for our return to the workplace. This matrix will ultimately lead to four categories of work schedules: full-time onsite, full-time remote and two hybrid categories—hybrid “remote first,” which are those employees who only need to be in the office about once a week, and hybrid “onsite first,” which are those employees who need to be in the office more often, but not every day. For each quadrant, there is a list of considerations for our leaders to think about as they work with their teams to make workplace decisions.
Companies are more than a business—they should function as a community. In fact, I’d go so far as to say we’re in the business of building community. And the power of our community has never been more evident, never been more important, than in the last year.
Building community is critical to the success of our independent distributors, and it carries over into our corporate culture. When the world went into quarantine, we were faced with the same challenge as many companies were—how to ensure our employees continued to feel like they were part of a community. It was important that they were engaged and feeling a sense of belonging, that they hadn’t been forgotten as individuals just because we didn’t see them every day. Ironically, we heard over and over from employees that they felt more connected throughout the pandemic as we increased our number of virtual town hall meetings and global events featuring topical information such as physical health and mental wellbeing. And, importantly, we had some fun doing it.
It’s critical for leaders to keep that momentum going as we return to our work locations and navigate the next normal. Employees have new expectations not only about where they’ll work, but what they need to support their mental health and overall wellbeing. We can’t become complacent. Our return-to-work plans will include active efforts to build upon the community that was nurtured during the pandemic. We must continue building our employee community and stay attuned to the needs of our teams. In fact, according to Gallup, the influence of employee wellbeing and engagement on workforce resilience is what will help companies weather future crises.
The pandemic, while challenging, was also an opportunity to lead by example and do what’s right for our company, for our independent distributors, for their customers and for our employees. In a word, it was an opportunity to build more trust. And it’s trust that’s going to help us build our own next normal at Herbalife Nutrition. Our return-to-work plans include employee preference and enhanced flexibility because we trust that our employees will choose what is best for them, their families, their team members and the company.
I’ve learned so much this last year. I’m sure everyone has. Most of all, I’ve learned how much I appreciate our company, our community and our culture. I feel renewed, re-energized and reinvigorated about what’s to come. And I believe the best companies will consider their culture and the principles upon which they’ve built their businesses as they make decisions about returning to the workplace. The next normal provides us all with an opportunity to strengthen our special cultures, reinforce our principles and heighten trust.