As more offices are welcoming their employees back into the workplace, either full-time in the office, full-time remote work, or a “hybrid” in-between, I am noticing a couple of trends:
- Social. The face-to-face connection is so powerful, some just want to hug everyone, others will maintain social distancing, and others are extremely uncomfortable. It’s about being respectful to each other, recognizing that we have all come through this pandemic, but we all had different experiences. Some thrived and some simply survived. Others knew few people who contracted COVID while others had friends and family who succumbed to the virus. Think about some protocols you might put in place that help people recognize the level of comfort. Amazon even sells color-coded wrist bands to indicate the level of comfort: “Red: Greet from Six Feet,” Yellow: Elbows Only,” or “Green: Handshakes and High-fives Approved.”
- Connection. The one thing we all have in common is the craving of human connection – and some of your employees have never met beyond the confines of a video box. They will need some extra time to get to know each other and re-acclimate back to the workplace. Conducting team building and connection opportunities can help break the ice!
- Hygienics. We’ve all gotten used to specific disinfecting protocols….which frankly, most were a good idea anyway! (Even the common flu metrics are significantly down this year, so all those disinfecting wipes came in handy!) Consider keeping some of those protocols in place.
- Revisit Ground Rules. Every team has ground rules – those operating principles that guide acceptable behavior on the team. The explicit ground rules probably shifted when employees went home and now that they are coming back, they may stay the same or need to be tweaked a bit. I’m pretty sure the dynamics have changed if you now have more remote workers than on-site workers. Time to revisit the team’s expectations of how they are going to work together and get the job done.
- Revisit Process & Procedures. Sure it’s been 18 months since we went into lockdown, and we figured out how to get the work done. Time to button up the policies and procedures to accommodate this new way of working.
- Rethink Strategy. As Winston Churchill has famously said, “Never let a good crisis go to waste,” what can your team do to leverage the trends emerging from this pandemic?
Your teammates don’t expect to go back to “normal” nor do they know what the “new normal” is. My guess is that it will be a series of new normals, just like it has been whenever a team experiences a significant event that shifts the team dynamic. Help them negotiate their way back to the workplace.
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