Post-COVID: Creating Your New Normal in the Workplace
By Georgina Miranda, guest contributor
After a year or more away from your office and peers, the thought of returning back to your desk, commute, and schedule can bring on new concerns or anxiety. Leaders today are challenged to create a new normal for their places of work and teams. While you might still hear many people say, “I can’t wait to go back to normal,” it’s important to acknowledge that our world has shifted, we as individuals have shifted, and the normal we knew is in the past. We can only look forward. We are not the people we were a year ago, nor is our place of work.
When considering how to shape your workplace and experiences for your people, factors on the table go beyond the physical work environment, because you need to take into account the emotional and mental wellbeing of your teams as well. While COVID-19 impacted the entire world, not all things were equal in the way each person experienced COVID-19. Looking at it simply, some people had COVID-19 and many others didn’t, some lost loved ones, some didn’t. Layer this on with many other socio-economic factors and you can see the wide range of experiences people might have had. It’s no doubt, the past year has been emotionally taxing due to the amount of change required from all of us alone. Expectations around your people’s performance and ability to readjust to a new way of working needs to take all of these factors into account.
5 Things to Consider for You and Your Teams as You Return to Work:
Acknowledge Your Feelings.
It’s okay to have fear, doubts, or anxiety about returning to your physical place of work. You can only get through the mix of emotions you might be feeling if you are willing to look at them honestly and with compassion. It’s then you can start to address them one by one. It’s important for you as a leader to have a high level of self-awareness, as the reality is your teams may likely have an equal mix of feelings as they step back into the office. Leaders of organizations need to stay aligned in their support plans for their people and have open peer-to-peer dialogue about your concerns and those voiced by your teams, in order to find creative solutions to help address them.
Create Space to Share and Connect.
Create space for your teams to come together and also share how they feel about coming back to work, what resources they might need to help them in this time of transition, and cultivate an environment that prioritizes the wellbeing of your people. Give them the opportunity to share their view of challenges and opportunities one to three months after you are all back in the office. While this past year required a special dose of creativity to keep teams feeling connected and engaged despite not physically being in contact with one another, reforming those layers of connection will be equally important today. If you run a global team where some staff may still be remote, be sure to keep them feeling included and acknowledge that all things are not equal in what returning to work looks like. Continue to create space for sharing, connection, and growth so that no team member is left behind in what might be their silent struggle to adjust coming back to the workplace.
Create Your New Normal.
You are not the leader you were a year ago, and each person on your team has grown in their own way as well. What have you learned? What did they learn? Now is the time to put your growth and learnings into practice. Surely every organization has room to improve and so there is no sense in trying to recreate the past, but instead shift your mindset to create a better future. Make it a priority to reevaluate your current business practices, communications, and overall employee and customer engagement. Leverage any new insights you may have learned about your overall team dynamics such as who works well independently and who needs more of a team and guided approach. Continue to utilize any new tools at your disposal to allow for better collaboration such as Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Slack, or another way you found to work together. Share your vision clearly with your team as you integrate to the new way of working you have developed. Acknowledge you might still be creating, adjusting, and building as you go.
Keep Mindful and Flexible.
The only thing that is constant is change. All leaders have the opportunity to create a culture of presence in their organizations. Give yourself and your people time to get grounded at work again. Accept that your re-entry plan may need to be adjusted along the way. Plan for an honest and mindful review of your progress monthly for the first six months and course-correct as needed. Also, be mindful that some employees may need to adapt to a hybrid model to start. They may not all be able to return to the office 100% of the time. Many people moved during the pandemic, lost child care, and beyond--so these things need to be taken into account. Flexibility will be key in your approach and making sure everyone feels valued and supported.
Lead Yourself First. Be Your Own Best CEO.
It’s impossible to lead others well if we cannot lead ourselves well. This will be important no matter what is happening in the world. Remember to cultivate self-awareness consistently as a leader so you can best be of service in the world. Your wellbeing sets the stage for any success you hope to achieve.
It’s a new adventure; approach it with curiosity and an inner knowing that we all have the potential to create a better future--mindful, more resilient, and more creative based on our growth from this past year. Continue to cultivate connection, as we transition from a time of isolation and social distancing, while keeping your people feeling safe and their wellbeing of the utmost importance.
Georgina Miranda is dedicated to helping people, companies, and societies transform for their highest and best good across the globe. She is a social entrepreneur, mountaineer athlete, international speaker, writer, transformation coach, consultant, yogi, mindfulness and energy practitioner, activist, and founder and CEO of She Ventures. She is known for producing transformative experiences and for developing proficient, conscious leaders, entrepreneurs, and companies alike. Her client roster spans Fortune 500 companies globally. She also serves as the Explorer in Residence (EIR) at 4xi Consulting, impacting the Future of Work around the world. Follow Georgina on Instagram or connect with her on LinkedIn.
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