Back to Work: Adjusting to the New Normal

Back to work won’t be back to normal – a least, not for a while.

Your employees have become accustomed to long mornings, short commutes, and flexible hours. Without train schedules and long car rides, they’ve had more time to pursue passion projects and spend time with family. They haven’t shaved, put on heels, or done their makeup in months. And now, one Monday morning in the very near future, they’ll be asked to come back into the office.

A foreign environment. Eerily familiar, yet so much has changed. Employees have only seen the four walls of their homes for months and now, they’re back in the place they once spent most of their time. It feels foreign, distant. There is anxiety over coming into contact with others, the unfamiliarity of face-to-face meetings, and beneath it all, the uncertainty of how their role in the company might drastically change going forward.

Returning to the office will mark the entryway into the new world. We haven’t seen this one before, and we don’t know what it will bring. Your employees look to you for answers, but you might not have any, either.

How can you show them that you acknowledge their fears? That you understand where they’re coming from, that you want to support them? Your words may be hollow; you know, and they know, that plans can change in an instant. Demonstrating solidarity, promoting mutual loyalty, and re-establishing trust with your employees is a delicate game.

Maybe some of their colleagues have already been let go. Still, others have been furloughed or have had their hours cut. During this time, employees may have been sick or have seen loved ones pass.

But your organization must move forward. You know that the strength of your organization lies in employee commitment. The ones you’ve kept on staff need to be reminded that they are supported. They need to be recognized for their resilience. They need to be motivated to resume the excellent work they were doing before this whole thing started.

There are many avenues for reaching this goal, and your organization should pursue more than one. But employee engagement kits are a great place to start. Actions speak louder than words – especially now. When employees step back into the office on that first Monday and find a welcome back package on their desk, they’ll breathe easier knowing that they are valued and that everyone is in this together.