Like many global corporations, we are pondering how best to get employees back into work as some countries are returning to some semblance of normalcy. We realize that things have to be different. Some call it the “new normal,” but I prefer another phrase I heard recently, the “next normal.” Because if you think about it, companies have adapted to the “next normal” over the course of history. We work very differently today than we did 50 years ago.

at Herbalife Nutrition, there are some key principles we follow such as offering personalized nutrition programs and individual support, understanding and nurturing the importance of community, building servant leadership, and most importantly, building trust in everything we do. I believe that these same core principles will help us and other companies adapt to the next normal and create a workplace that is even stronger and more engaged than it was before the pandemic destroyed all areas of our lives.

Personalized programs and individual support

Employees have unique needs and circumstances that must be considered when we return to work. The past year has proven that many companies, including ours, can be flexible and successful with employees who work remotely. As a leadership team, we expect our leaders to first listen to their employees, identify and encounter their special circumstances, and then align what is best for their teams with the needs of the company. Listening to employees and allowing them more flexibility in the way they work is part of serving leadership. As part of the effort to listen to our employees, we have an engagement strategy with short pulse surveys. The feedback gives us employee insights and actionable feedback that we consider in business decisions.

Serving leadership

Servant leadership is at the heart of our culture. Helping Others Succeed is a fundamental principle that companies should adhere to. We want our leaders to put people first, but it is not enough just to instruct them to make decisions in the workplace while they are in their servant leader hats. We need to help them thrive by giving them “flexibility within a framework” and giving them the tools and training they need to navigate the next normal.

With this in mind, we have developed a decision matrix that takes into account the feasibility and portability of positions when planning our return to work. This matrix ultimately leads to four categories of work schedules: full-time on site, full-time remote and two hybrid categories – hybrid “remote first”, i.e. the employees who only have to be in the office about once a week, and hybrid “onsite first” the employees who have to be in the office more often, but not every day. For each quadrant, there is a list of considerations our leaders should consider when working with their teams to make decisions in the workplace.

Community

Companies are more than a business – they should function as a community. In fact, I would go as far as to say that we are in the business of community building. And the power of our community has never been so evident, never has it been more important than last year.

Building a community is critical to the success of our independent sales partners and carries over to our corporate culture. When the world went into quarantine, we faced the same challenge as many companies – how to make sure that our employees continue to feel part of a community. It was important that they were engaged and felt that they belonged, that they weren’t forgotten as individuals just because we didn’t see them every day. Ironically, we kept hearing from employees that they felt more connected during the pandemic when we increased our number of virtual town hall meetings and global events with updated information such as physical health and mental wellbeing. And most of all, we had fun doing it.

It is vital for leaders to maintain this dynamic as we return to our places of work and embark on the next normal. Employees have new expectations not only for their workplace, but also for what they need to support their mental health and general well-being. We can’t get complacent. Our return to work plans will include active efforts to build on the community nurtured during the pandemic. We have to keep building our employee community and stay tuned to the needs of our teams. According to Gallup, the impact of employee wellbeing and engagement on workforce resilience is the key factor that will help companies weather future crises.

to trust

While the pandemic was a challenge, it was also an opportunity to lead by example and do the right thing for our company, for our independent sales partners, for their customers and for our employees. In a word, it was an opportunity to build more confidence. And it is trust that will help us build our own closest normal Herbalife Nourishment. Our return to work plans include employee preference and increased flexibility as we trust our employees to choose the best for them, their families, their team members and the company.

I learned so much last year. I’m sure everyone has that. Most of all, I learned how much I value our company, our community and our culture. I feel renewed, energized and revitalized for what’s to come. And I believe that the best companies will consider their culture and the principles on which they built their business when making return to work decisions. The next normal offers us all the chance to strengthen our special cultures, strengthen our principles and strengthen trust.