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Returning to Work: New World, New Rules, New Opportunities!

June 29, 2021

We all remember when it happened. One day, you were knee-deep in a rinse-and-repeat style of life, and the next, you could not go to work—not just you, but nearly everyone. The world shifted on its axis, and we became a world in waiting. We waited for direction, a vaccination, and a chance to see a simpler tomorrow. Without knowing what lay ahead, we moved forward in careful, calculated steps.

Now, we prepare to undertake the next daunting task: returning to work. From colleges to corporations, we can use our newfound knowledge to help us move forward. Following are a few actions to make this transition truly effective for those who report to us and work alongside us.

Create a Calm Atmosphere
Even for the most stalwart of employees, returning to the office is challenging, fraught with new waves of worry and the possibility of returning home yet again. The pressing questions in employees’ minds are precisely where leaders should begin. At the forefront of the conversation, leaders need to ask what safety means to individuals and promote the idea that protecting people is pivotal. Create a space where people can be heard. Be prepared not to have all the answers. Assure that safety is part of the reopening plan and that employee well-being is the center of everything.

Update Policies and Procedures
Remote work is no longer thought of as a fantasy or an employer’s worst nightmare. Even so, in many cases policies relating to working from home either do not exist or are tremendously outdated. Exert effort in reworking those procedures—craft policies around PTO, vaccinations, work expectations, and what defines a sick day. Leaders must also prepare for those employees who would prefer to continue to work from home. Approach every procedure as another opportunity to tell people how important they are and support them every step of the way.

Promote Flexibility and Patience
Many of us have endured traumatic experiences in the past year or so, and it’s possible some employees are not as ready, willing, or able to return to the office as they thought. People need to see work as a flexible culture that welcomes them wherever they are in the moment. If someone isn’t ready to come back to the office, how can you support them and what they need to be productive? Perhaps promote a gradual return to the office, allowing those who can’t wait to come back to do so immediately while others enter on a rotating basis. If you promote a philosophy of people first, you will see your employees excel even more in your industry.

Make Mental Health a Priority
This past year has been marked by a dark theme: times of taking. Whether the senseless taking of lives by systematic racism or a global pandemic that took, again and again, most of us have not successfully processed these losses. Now is the time for leaders to stop the stigma and support mental health initiatives. Through access to behavioral health specialists, community organizations, EAPs, and support groups, employees can receive help navigating their way to the next new normal.

Strengthen Social Interaction
The loss of connection has haunted all of us as we struggle to gain control over the familiar feeling of loneliness. As socialization increases, it’s up to leaders to build back the bonds that have been broken. Although there is no manual for moving forward, no one should pretend that people can easily resume their lives in the workplace and community. The pain we have suffered has hit us where it hurts most: our humanity. Leaders must remember that there is no perfect solution as we work diligently to reopen a new reality. We all are reinventing the world, the workplace, and ourselves. It is going to take commitment, patience, and time to make this work.

Let us use our hope in humanity to help us heal into tomorrow.

Sandi Coyne-Gilbert is an accomplished leader with experience in both the education and nonprofit sectors. Coyne-Gilbert specializes in working with adult learners and is enthusiastic about instilling a passion for lifelong learning in her students. Her work with at-risk and marginalized groups provided her with unique insights into the power of education for people in transition. Beyond the educational field, Coyne-Gilbert also has experience in marketing and nonprofit leadership. Most notably, she was one of the driving forces behind the development of the Ronald McDonald House in Springfield, MA. Coyne-Gilbert brings her experiences to the classroom as program director for the master’s degree in Organizational Leadership at Goodwin University.
 
Are you ready to make a lasting impact? She’d love to hear from you. Call us today: 800.889.3282 or learn more at: www.goodwin.edu/leadership.

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