Back to the office!
Over the last few months there is no doubt that your workforce has been going through a rollercoaster of emotions trying to deal with all that a world stuck in the middle of a pandemic has thrown at them. Some will have sailed through it and loved the freedom that working from home has allowed them, but others will have struggled and are still struggling and really can’t see an end to it all, even though the lockdown restrictions have been lifted.
Take Nadiya and Arjun who are both working parents. Their normal work/life routine has been thrown into a spin, not only trying to work from home with just a kitchen table for a desk, but also from the added stress and additional work that home schooling has dumped on them. There’s the guilt that comes with trying to juggle the attention that they need to give to their children, along with wanting to be available for their colleagues or meeting a deadline. Then there’s the worry that Sarah or Eddie, who both don’t have children, might think that Nadiya is skiving because she’s not picking up the team messages as soon as they have come in. That’s because Nadiya is dealing with an eight year old’s melt down over not being able to work out the bus top method in maths. What Sarah and Eddie are completely unaware of is that Nadiya is sitting at her laptop at 6am in the morning and Arjun works until midnight as they both try to cram a few hours of work in before and after their house wakes up or goes to sleep and their attention is pulled in all directions. As for worrying about their own relationships, well there really isn’t a spare minute in the day to think about that.
However, if Nadiya or Arjun actually spoke to Sarah or Eddie they’d find that their life isn’t so great in lockdown either. Sarah and Eddie are normally the sociable guys in their offices, always up for a quick chat in the office kitchen and stopping by your desk with the latest gossip or joke. They are the life and soul of team meetings and always out in the pub after work with anyone that wants to join them. In lockdown their world has been turned upside down, particularly for Sarah as she lives on her own in a tiny studio flat and is going quite mad being locked in on her own without the daily chatter of the office. That’s why she doesn’t stop talking in the team meetings as she doesn’t want them to end. She’s even missed the grumpy guy that she buys her coffee from each morning and vows to make him smile next time she goes back. Eddie’s not too bad as he’s had his flat mate David to chat to, but David spends most of his spare time on Facetime with his girlfriend, so it’s definitely not the same as hanging out with his teammates in the bar after work. That’s why he is always messaging you as he’s desperate for conversation. Suddenly the world that provided them with their daily routine and acted as a big safety blanket has been taken away from them and they are suddenly alone, and their days just seemed endless. Even the daily trip to the local park for a walk or cycle doesn’t make up for the morning commute. Who’d have thought that being crammed in behind smelly backpack guy on the 08.05 from Pinner would seem so appealing.
Also, there’s a big chunk of the team, Julie, Ben, Margaret and Phil who have all been furloughed. They have gone through a spin cycle of emotions during their time at home. Julie has enjoyed the lie in’s and finally having the time to do a daily yoga routine and she’s even done a few online courses to update her office skills. Phil has found that he’s a dab hand at home schooling, wishes the bus stop method had been taught when he was at school and has loved helping his daughter with her Egyptian project. As for Margaret, well her garden is finally looking the way she always wanted it to be. However, as the weeks and months have gone on their self confidence has been chipped away at and self doubt has snuck in under the door. There is no doubt that a niggling little voice in their head has been feeding their insecurities with “Why me? Why was I put on furlough and the other half of the team were kept on?”, “Is it because I’m not very good at my job? “, “Does my boss not like me?”, “Will I remember how to do my job when I go back?”, “Will I be good enough?”, “What if I don’t get my job back and they make me redundant, what will I do next?” or “Do I actually want to go back, maybe now is the time for me to finally take that leap and retrain?”
Cynthia actually caught COVID-19, and although she wasn’t hospitalised was really ill and very scared. She had to isolate herself from the whole family spending long days and nights panicking that she was finding it hard to breath and worried that if she went to sleep, she might not wake up. The noise of her family’s life carrying on in the surrounding rooms and the worried hello’s and chats from outside her door to see if she was OK are what kept her sane and fighting. She has been through a trauma and although she has come out of it on the other side, she has spent a lot of time in her own thoughts and is wondering whether she is on the right path in life and if she really does want to work in HR for the rest of her life.
Sadly, Bradley has had it worse of all as one of his closest friends has died of COVID-19 and he really doesn’t think that life is going to be the same again. He was only 45! They went through University together, were each other’s best men and have always cheered each other on in life and in work. Who is he going to talk to now when he’s got problems at work and needs a sounding board? Who is he going to compete with to see who can get a seat on the board first? Bradley feels lost and alone now in his work journey and doesn’t know what to do.
Nearly everyone in your workplace is going to have been affected one way or another from the last few months. Going back to the office for many will be similar to starting work for the first time. Trepidation, excitement or reluctance. Some of your teams will be feeling apprehensive about whether it’s safe to return to the workplace and some won’t want to go back as they have really settled into working remotely and can’t imagine having to do that daily commute again. Others will be fretful and doubting their ability to do their job as well as they did it before and wondering what their work nemesis has been up to while they have been hidden away.
There is no doubt that everyone’s view of their old working ways will have changed. Some will definitely have developed an appreciation of it, but others will be reassessing it. It would be of benefit to any employer to explore this and assist in recharging their team’s commitment and productivity. Nadiya might not have been performing at her best whilst home schooling, but she’s normally your top salesperson. Cynthia is the best HR person you’ve had and keeps all the teams functioning at their best. Eddie might be the office joker, but he’s really good at bringing the team together. Just like repositioning that picture frame in your hall that is slightly off kilter, it is always good to do the same with your team and give them a chance to realign their mindsets and help them rediscover their original drive and commitment.
If you need assistance in doing this then please click here for more information on how you can help your team or yourself get back onboard for this new normal in our working life.