Those of us working from home haven’t seen our offices and colleagues in months. It will be a very strange feeling to walk in the doors again once the stay-at-home requirement has been lifted. We long for the familiarity – to see our office spaces and coworkers and get back to work in our usual routines. But what that might look like may be very different than what we’re used to. Most likely, we will have to wear masks, and even gloves. We won’t be able to congregate and chit chat like we once did. Meetings may be remote instead of face-to-face. Because we may not be able to socialize, there could be feelings of isolation, loneliness and disconnection. So, what can employers do to help employees adjust to a new normal? Here are a few of my suggestions:
* Don’t pretend everything is normal just because you’re back at work. Make sure you give employees opportunities to voice their feelings and concerns. Validate their experiences and assure them that you are their partner when it comes to re-entering the workforce.
* Try to establish a sense of normalcy despite the restrictions. Get back to your routine – get meetings and projects back on track. Like young children, employees need a schedule which provides a sense of order and normalcy.
* Reevaluate your expectations and standards. While we all would like to jump right back into things without missing a beat, that may not be the right pace. Many people have been traumatized by COVID-19 – the fear about the devastating effects of this pandemic are justified. Asking an employee whose family has been directly affected by the virus to continue where he/she left off may not be realistic. Employees need time to adjust and laying down the law and having extraordinarily high standards could be a set-up for failure.
* Have a team meeting that sets the tone for the future. Enlist your employees’ help in establishing the new normal. Have a brainstorming session. Talk goal setting, project ideas and deliverables. Ask them for their ideas on how to move forward. Make them feel they are a part of your re-building process. Their buy-in will help everybody adjust to the changes.
* Make your workplace fun. These past months have been stressful for everyone. Cracking the whip as soon as employees come back to work is not ideal. Play games, or plan fun contests. Start the first week off with a team building exercise so connections can be re-established. Create a relaxed atmosphere.
If you need additional suggestions or guidance on how to re-energize your workforce or work through this stressful time, feel free to contact me at Alexandra.G@comcast.net and visit www.glumacconsulting.com.