It’s been a long, horrible year and a half, and we’re still not entirely out of the woods. But slowly, gradually, a lot of folks are going back to work. And it’s not going to be easy! There’s a lot of discomfort, a lot of unease, and a lot that’s just plain strange. For those folks who don’t adjust well to change, they have to be thinking: “Wait, we finally got used to the new normal, and now we’re switching things up again?” It’s a process!
There are several considerations to keep in mind as you welcome your coworkers back to the office, and empathy, patience, and flexibility is going to be key. From our point of view, here are a few things to remember.
It’s an Inside Job?
Being indoors feels weird! Even for the vaccinated, there’s a level of anxiety that’s still hanging over every indoor activity, and sitting in an office with a bunch of other folks only emphasizes it. That’s why it’s so important to find ways to step outdoors, and allow everyone else to do so too. Providing your people an opportunity to go outside, be in nature, and experience a different environment was always good practice, but now it’s practically essential.
Oh Right… People
Thinking that other people are dangerous and should be avoided used to be called paranoia, but a year and a half ago, it became genuinely true! And we did everything we could to address and respect that fact. But as the danger abates, it’s still a tough notion to shake, especially when so many folks’ behavior did little to preserve our trust in people. But if we’re going to be together again, we need to recognize the discomfort we all about being in a crowd, or even in a small group. Social distancing was hard, but it turns out socializing is pretty hard too!
I’m Not Even Supposed to Be Here
And have no doubt, there are folks on your team who resent being asked to be back at all. Whether they’re not comfortable seeing people again, or just got really used to working in their PJs, this will be a tough transition for a lot of people, and their feelings are entirely valid. Find ways to express your gratitude to everyone on your team, both for the hard work they’ve done in the last year and for the effort it will take to resume working in a traditional setup.
But as weird as a lot of this is, it’s also great! It may seem like a contradiction — no, it’s definitely a contradiction — but it’s really nice to see people again, isn’t it? Being back in person not only gives us the human contact we desperately craved, it’s also real, tangible sign that the worst of this is coming to an end. We went through a hard, hard year, and we deserve to celebrate! Milestones are valuable, and finding a way to mark the happy occasion is key to acknowledging how hard we all worked to get here.
Back on Our Fee
Let’s face it, we wore sweatpants for a whole year, but probably didn’t do a whole lot of sweating. And maybe we told ourselves that, in quarantine you deserve to eat an entire birthday cake. (Correct, by the way.) But now, maybe it’s time to get a little exercise again. Group exercise is a great way to build camaraderie and challenge one another.
In the last year, a whole lot of folks started a new job. And for most of them, they’ve never been in the same room as their new coworkers. And that’s changing. You’ll want to find ways to welcome to the members of the team, to celebrate them, and to show them how you work together. Come to think of it, there are probably a lot of old members of the team who could use a refresher course on who everyone is. There’s never been a more opportune time for some team building — rebuilding, even. Celebrate going back to in person work -- this is a big deal!
Talk about siloing. Working from home can really make it feel like you’re all by yourself, and It’s been a while since most of us have truly collaborated. Now is a great time to hone your collaboration skills. Shake off the cobwebs and remind yourselves how a team works.
A team building scavenger hunt is a great way to get outdoors, build trust in each other both as coworkers and people, and welcome to the members of your team in a spirit of gratitude. Having some silly fun is a way to celebrate our resilience while acknowledging the struggles we faced. Consider a scavenger hunt for your team as you face ways to address the many issues of getting back to in person work. We’ve seen enough of each other’s bookshelves and bedroom walls. Let’s find the joy in actually seeing each other. Or if you prefer, start by finding the opposite of terror, then move on to joy when you’re ready.