As more people become vaccinated and states continue to ease restrictions, many businesses are formulating a plan for how to bring employees back to the office, make work from home permanent, or adopt some type of hybrid model as their new normal.
Certain employees will welcome the opportunity to return — to see friends, co-workers, peers…to see them period (physically). For them, returning to the office represents a return to a place where they feel they can concentrate solely on their job responsibilities without distraction. While there may be an out-of-sorts feeling for a little while, they feel the adjustment or re-acclimation to office life will be a relatively smooth one.
Others, however, were hoping the call to return was delayed for several more months or quite possibly that it never came. Fear may plague their minds about the lingering effects of COVID, social/political unrest, or something else. Perhaps they’ve adjusted well to WFH and simply don’t want to go back to the office or feel the need to go back. Maybe they felt abandoned by their organization at a time when they were needed most and aren’t quite ready to face the company’s key decision makers just yet.
Whatever the reason (or reasons), leaders must be ready and equipped to handle an environment which may be thoroughly segmented or disjointed. Emotions may run high for some time. New triggers or those which happen much more quickly should be anticipated.
Different opinions, feelings, and thoughts have been separated to a degree for over a year in some organizations. Leaders need to be aware and prepared for what bringing everyone together again will look like. Conflict may happen sooner, last longer, and could be more severe. Employees who weren’t given the option to work from home may harbor resentment towards those who were and vice versa. Concerns over mental health stability are prevalent; from both the leader and employee perspectives.
Leaders should to take stock in the tools they possess in their toolbelts, as well as the additional resources which are available to them. Many organizations pay for benefits like EAP services, but very few employees ever actually take advantage of it. While much attention is placed on employee welfare and support, leaders should make time for their own self-care. Utilize networks and support systems for encouragement and assistance.
In our last episode, we talked about the concept of loving your employees. If there was ever a time to show care and concern, it is now. This should be a time of hope and resurgence, and for many it is. For others, the emotions may not be all positive. This could impact interaction, performance, and overall well-being. Leaders should be on alert…be patient…listen…but also know you can make a real difference in how your organization moves forward.