After a War at Home, suddenly you’re asked to return to work. (You knew this was coming.)
You get to be around other human beings again! Woooohooooo!!!!
Then, you realize…. You have to be around other human beings again.
What does that look like now? Should I be scared? Do I fight it and stay home? Do I go and hope for the best? Who wears the masks, me or them… is there sanitizer, bleach wipes and *gasp*….
IS THERE ANY TOILET PAPER AT WORK?!
Does War at Home suddenly seem like the safer, more toilet paper-oriented, safe-haven alternative to what used to be considered “normal?” Let’s ease those worries and get you back to you.
To start: normal never existed, period.
We have a fixed image of what normal was or should be. You remember. Before the sickness started:
Waking up with birds chirping and butterflies hovering over head. You would wake up and stretch. Tend to personal responsibilities related to family and possibly workout routines (for the overachievers…I’m jealous). Next, a commute to a location where you work, either in a uniform or business attire of some sort, tending to clients, patients, and/or employees. You worked a set amount of hours, and at a specific time you returned home to your evening routine. Everything was copacetic…
FYI: That was not everyone’s reality before the War at Home. The black and white 50’s family sitcom image of the perfect life, minimal hassle and definitive work schedule routine that suddenly emerged in the world during this crisis wasn’t and isn’t real. It is a bias. Not everyone’s life was the same “normal” as suggested in media (social or otherwise) during this pandemic. From this understanding of the non-existence of “normal” we can deduce that “new normal” is not a thing either. Moving on…
You have to go back to work. First things first… Breath…
It is OK to feel anxious about going back to a “one-building for multiple people for multiple hours” setting. Many companies are working out how they are going to “reintegrate” their workforces into the office or building setting in a safe way. Those same companies are new to all of this and are, therefore, working on this for the very first time. So, before we start talking about “new normals” or “reintegrations of the workforce,” let’s nip those terms in the bud right now and start by calling this the “Reinfusion and Reinvention of the Workforce.” This is actually more positive and less anxiety-inducing than it seems. (And please stop saying "new normal"- no one actually likes that.)
This is new to everyone, so speak up!
That’s right. It may seem like all these companies know exactly what to do in a time of crisis, but they are new to this particular series of events too! And that is perfectly acceptable and even desirable. That means they are being pushed to think in a more empathetic, diverse manner about their employees- how to make them feel comfortable and safe while still maintaining productivity. Leaders want and/or need communication and feedback right now. Reach out to your management to discuss your re-infusion concerns ahead of time. I promise you- you are not the only one worried about being around all of your coworkers the way you used to be. Frankly, we are all a bit nerve-wracked at the thought of leaving the house for something other than the weekly grocery store trip to ensure we can build that toilet paper fort (that is apparently extremely important to have during a pandemic).
This is bigger than simply going back to the way things were.
This is about pushing for a better, new, life-encompassing way of work that suits the reality of life. And life itself is an unpredictable combination of factors outside of one's employment.
Organizations throughout the world are recognizing (finally) that remote work is possible for many/most positions. This is a good thing and one that we should embrace. With this recognition comes the understanding that flooding an office full of its employees in one fell swoop is probably not a good, safe or even necessary idea in our current state. Companies are taking this into consideration now and identifying rotational schedules, remote work, and other socially-distanced scenarios, which are fantastic opportunities to help employees with their physical and mental well-being, further building a resilient work culture suited to uniqueness in individuals. They are noticing and accounting for added responsibilities this pandemic has presented us with: we have to be more cautious with our sanitation habits, understand that employees have children who are at home and are probably not returning to school or daycare in 2020, and so on. Employers are recognizing all the life obligations you had before the pandemic and more!
You, my friend, are not alone and this moment in time is not only a crisis or time of despair. This is a change that, although uncomfortable, is offering our world an opportunity to remove workplace biases and reinvent even the most stubborn organizational cultures with the understanding that humans are more than workers- they are beings, each with their own, unique lives, challenges, and strengths.
Our control over our lives is limited now, but we DO have a say in the fate of our future work lives.
Some of us are about to return to our established business locations and re-invent our work world right now! For those essential employees who have been working in hospitals, construction, etc.(thank you)- they have learned a whole new way of work. For those of us who have had the luxury (and stress) of working from home, we have the opportunity to speak to the fact that many employees can work remotely. We just proved it. Even medical professionals have been seeing patients online, when possible, and successfully!
We can re-infuse employees into a workplace setting, together with limitations, and that is not a bad thing. Some can work from home, some can work from the office, and some can even work from wherever they are in the world- it is all a matter of new perspective that this unfortunate crisis has kindly provided us. Please take this opportunity to make work life a more enriching addition to our personal lives and be the voice of positive change.
Stay healthy, stay well, and always be your amazing YOU.