Leading in the Days Ahead

Beware as you return back to work! A lot has changed in a few months.

The world around us is quite different, and not just from COVID. There have been huge shifts caused by social turbulence, political divisiveness, and the like. Issues such as equity and justice are more on the radar, and there is the almost daily change in continuing health guidelines for work, schools, and pretty much all aspects of life.

The workplace will be different as well. For many organizations, not everyone will be returning to the workplace. Some will work remotely, and some will have left the company. And there are likely some new folks who, up to now, have been not much more than a talking camera shot on some virtual platform. Physical arrangements may also be different, given many organizations will choose to keep some of the distancing options.

Also keep in mind that your people have changed. Most have likely worked in unusual work environments, had different kinds of family issues to deal with, and have become accustomed to different patterns and processes. And all will have experienced some kind of loss from all of the changes with which they have had to deal. Although they have done it for years, waking up and heading out of the house to go to work will require some adjusting.

Don’t forget that you also have likely changed, and that the previous relationships you had with direct reports or work mates may not feel exactly the same. For those of you who have seen the movie, Groundhog Day, don’t expect the return to the workplace to be identical to the day you all left.

And that leads us to what may be the toughest challenge for you and others. Early March 2021 is still very clear in peoples’ minds. They remember how things were done. So returning to the workplace to find everything changed may be difficult, especially when the old ways were so nice and comfortable. So, don’t be surprised if you hear a lot of comments that sound something like, “let’s just do this like we did before all the covid madness occurred.”

Let me close with a quick analogy. Recently released was the reunion program of the old TV series Friends. Friends has been off the air for over 15 years. At the time of its last episode, camera phones had just been introduced, Facebook was still a year or two from public availability, and Bluetooth was a futuristic new offering.

Almost everything is different today. In fact, between then and now, one might be compelled to ask, “what hasn’t changed!”

Although the Covid-shutdown began only 15 months ago, the amount of change may seem more like 15 years’ worth. Trying to pick up exactly where you left off last March – well it would be like trying to plug in the original cast of Friends, all now in their 50’s, to pick up exactly where they left off as early thirty-year-olds hanging out in a coffee bar – with (gasp) no wi-fi. Probably not going to work.

The world, including the world of work, is a different place these days. And unfortunately, a vast number of the comfortable and productive things you used to do, and remember so clearly, just no longer fit. As perplexing as it might seem, keep your eyes on the road ahead, and try your best to not be lulled back to the complacency of the past.

All the best.

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