For some, there’s been a celebratory feel about the last couple of weeks. The weather is trying it’s hardest to get warmer and there’s a feeling that, for those that want it, there’s a slice of their old life available to them.
I say for some as there are others amongst us who are feeling a little more anxious about the new beginning we find ourselves in (we’re not using normal here) and specifically the prospect of a return to society.
We’re all carrying the scars of lockdowns and you would think that this would bring us together – unified by the shared experience. But that’s just it, it wasn’t shared. We were all forced to endure our own situations in our bubbles – more often than not, only connected with our friends, family and colleagues through the magic portal of Zoom or Teams.
What this is going to mean is that people have probably changed and many are going to need to some time to adjust to their worlds being turned upside down yet again.
Of course, we are all changing all of the time. As I approach the landmark half-century, I certainly have a different outlook to twenty years ago but I have also changed hugely through lockdown. Personally, much of it seems at times to have been a whirlwind, especially running a growing business and certainly when the kids were at home, but conversely, I have had far too much time on my own to think. Sometimes this is creative, sometimes it is destructive. Mostly it has involved trying to understand how I’m changing and what this means
A lot of people won’t have seen this change in me. How can they, I haven’t seen most people. Just as I’ve been oblivious to the changes in others.
So what does this mean for our return to society and a shared working environment? Do we just pick up where we left off over a year ago with our work colleagues? What about those we have yet to meet and how very strange it is going to be for them?
After virtual isolation for some, a switch has been flicked and we’re asking them to re-integrate, just like that. After days and weeks of talking to few, people will be expected to hold conversations with many. We are simply going to have to accept that this will be easier for some than others. And, for those that find it harder – it will be up to us as leaders to step up for them and support them. We’re going to need to do everything we can to understand, or at the very least show empathy with, their situation.
This is going to have to be managed carefully. This is going to need to be a collective effort. In short, we need to rethink the way we work with our people culture at the heart of what we do.
How we can support our people…
- Understand that everybody’s circumstance is different. Not for just what they’ve been through but how they feel and can cope right now
- Be aware that people will have changed. Don’t take anything for granted with regards to the relationships you used to have
- Listen like you give a shit. It’s the absolute best thing to do. Then act on it
- Support your management team in supporting others
- Be very clear in how you communicate things. If necessary, over-communicate
- Outline how the next week, month, six months look at the moment. People need reassurance but also truth
- Don’t force people into things they don’t want to do. Re-integration will take more time for some. Give them space if that’s what they want
- Show vulnerability and ask for help, but only where it’s relevant. As my son tells me all the time – stop pretending you get it
Every life-changing event in history has needed a carefully planned and empathetic time for rebuilding. We’re about to begin ours.
Look after yourselves and be nice to people.
If you’d like to talk about how you can create a more inclusive culture, be sure to get in touch.