Returning to Work as True Humans

As our society entered a state of emergency, it was essential for businesses to act quickly and adaptively. Since then, businesses have been required to make necessary adjustments to the way they think, communicate, and operate. However, as we begin to emerge and take steps towards reopening our economy, we must prepare for another inevitable change: the return to work.

As we prepare for our return, we need to let go of the notion that things will go back to “normal.” Adopting a “business as usual” mentality is both unrealistic and unsustainable. As a society, we are collectively living through a trauma and the world is now a very different place. This means that employees are returning to work as different people working under new circumstances. As such, it will be imperative for leaders to adopt new behaviours like regular check-ins, where empathy for workers’ personal situations is essential and where clarity in expectations, timelines, and deliverables is more important than ever.

At this time, there are many unknowns about going back to work and the return will look different for everyone. Whether you are an essential service that has remained open, a business that has shifted to remote work only, or a business that has been temporarily closed, each reality comes with its own set of implications.

Regardless of your work situation, as an employee, leader, or business owner, it is expected that you may return to work feeling more easily overwhelmed or worried, you may feel like situations are more out of your control, or you may feel frustrated, distressed, angry, or discouraged. To facilitate the transition, it is imperative that we focus our efforts on our psychological well-being and safety.

Using Positive Coping Strategies to Ease the Return

While work often presents challenges on its own, we are returning to work with the additional stress of the current context. To ensure sustainability as we go back to work, we must exercise positive and productive ways of coping. Coping is the process we use to manage our internal and/or external stressors and it can be either cognitive or behavioural. The way we cope is contextual and it depends on how we appraise a situation and the resources we have to handle it. There are many ways we can cope, but some are found to be more effective and productive than others.

  • Be proactive and make a plan. Focus your energy on doing something about the situation you are in. By actively engaging in steps towards improving your situation, you are taking charge of your own future.
    • For example, if your situation does not allow for you to accomplish the same volume of work as you did pre-crisis, take the time to discuss your different options with your leader. Create a list of clear goals and prioritize them in a realistic way. At a time when many individuals feel powerless, we need to keep in mind the things we do have control over.

 

  • It is always important to acknowledge your true feelings. However, re-examining your situation and trying to see it from a different, more optimistic perspective can help you move forward in the most beneficial way.
    • For example, if you are returning to work on reduced hours, you might feel unmotivated or you might feel financial stress. Rather than letting these feelings escape you, take this extra time to engage in a constructive activity or side venture that you have never had the time to pursue before. Always remember to ask yourself what you can learn from this situation.

 

  • Seek support. Turn to your coworkers, business leaders, family members, or friends. Seeking advice from others can offer a new perspective and can help you navigate your current situation.
    • For example, you might be surprised to learn that many others are feeling the same way as you are. Therefore, having open and transparent communication with others might help answer your questions or concerns about returning to work. In turn, you may be able to offer your perspective and help others work through their concerns as well.

 

As we reflect on the last few months, it is clear that the human experience has been interrupted. The global pandemic has required us to draw on some of our most fundamental human characteristics:

  • Our capacity for empathy, altruism, and collaboration;
  • Our resilience and adaptability to changing environmental conditions; and,
  • Our ability for vision and ingenuity to develop new ways of thinking, doing, and being, in response to our environment.

Never in recent history have we needed organizations and leaders to step up and be “human” as we do today, and never has the help of organizations specialized in understanding and optimizing human and team performance at work been more important or relevant.

There are many ways we can help support you and your organization navigate these challenging times. Humance offers many services, including individual and group coaching, leadership development, virtual support solutions, HR advisory services and more. Please do not hesitate to reach out to us. We would love to connect and try to help!

 

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Chloe Cragg MSc
  • Organizational Psychology Consultant

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