In my country some of the social distancing restrictions are starting to be lifted and it looks as though ‘normal life’ is on the horizon. It is not here yet, but we can see it’s coming. However, while we are still in country-wide lockdowns and focused on ‘surviving’ isolation, I have started pondering how we are going to ‘survive’ returning to a new normal. Have we given any thought on how to navigate the changed social and employment landscapes? If we don’t at least start thinking about it, we may be setting ourselves up for a harsh and emotionally draining return.
Although I want many areas of my life to function the same way they did before COVID-19, there will be changes that I have no control over and honestly, I’m not going to like some of it. However, I can minimise my frustrations by preparing myself mentally and examining my expectations. As my future mental health may be at stake here, I know it will be wise to take stock of the employment and social climate and adjusting accordingly.
Let’s take a moment to examine them together:
Our economic landscape will look vastly different as people pick up the pieces of businesses that might once have been financially viable. We are aware that some businesses will never open their doors again and most of the ones that do will have to adapt to absorb the economic downturn.
If you are fortunate enough to still have a job, you may face a workplace that has changed and you may be disappointed if it’s not what you expected. You might be faced with condensed hours, a pay-cut, location change or altered role etc. Navigating modified working conditions can be frustrating and exhausting; be prepared for some emotional reactions. To help you cope, I would recommend you ask your employer questions. If you can gain understanding, it will do a world of good towards handling this next stage well. Try to ask smart questions not emotionally loaded ones:
- Do you know how long this new arrangement be in place? Are these changes temporary or long-term?
- Can we review the new conditions of employment monthly?
- For me to help us achieve our goals, what is the business plan moving forward?
- Please help me understand the rationale behind this?
Most importantly, find out what’s happening within your industry. Understanding your current business environment is key for you to know what is appropriate in your own workplace and if you’re being taken advantage of. A bit of independent research will help you shape realistic (instead of idealistic) expectations.
How are your workers going to go when they finally return to work? I’m sure you’re aware that some modern-day employees won’t take your necessary changes well, especially if you have to alter long-standing arrangements. They will want to know the why and they will have questions. I would implore you to have constant and honest discussions with your employees, even if you don’t have the all answers. Give your employees something to get behind, let them feel like they are in this fight with you. If you leave them guessing, I can almost guarantee that they will become suspicious about the information you are giving them. Is it annoying for you? Possibly, but open communication, especially after this collective traumatic experience, will do wonders for worker morale . Remember that people are already on edge and uncertainty is our currency now. Anything you can do to alleviate workplace insecurity will foster a smoother return-to-work transition.
- Social interactions
I anticipate there will be a rush of social events when social distancing restrictions are lifted. Extroverts will need to recharge with others and their social interactions will be pivotal for healing. However, I suspect some of them, fuelled by a desperate need to connect, might feel entitled to people’s time. The danger is having unrealistic expectations of how others will interact with us and the disappointment that will inevitably follow. Alternatively, introverts won’t need extra events and might find increased social activities draining. However, being apart of a community means they may need to step outside their comfort zone to cultivate relationships. It’s also important to be mindful of people with mental and physical struggles; their recovery and readjustment to a ‘new normal’ might take longer than we think it should. With all our different personalities there is bound to be social pressure, push-backs and misunderstandings as we muddle forward. We are all going though a season of radical change, but the way we handle it and how we recover will differ for every person. Let’s keep exchanging kindness and offer compassion to those around us.
In our desire to return to ‘normal’ we will undoubtedly require more grace and wisdom than before and I know we are already pushing our emotional limits. However, if you are aware and prepare for a bumpy return, you’ll find the road a lot easier and less disappointing. Before society starts lifting the COVID-19 restrictions, take a moment to see if you have any hidden, unrealistic expectations. Start with these three questions:
- Do you have realistic expectations around return to employment and social gatherings?
- Are you prepared for some disappointments?
- How will you navigate this next phase?
Take stock and readjust as needed. This may very well be your most important self-care task this week. Remember, this has been a traumatic experience and everyone reacts differently, prepare yourself well and you’ll set yourself up to start strong.
Love Jess xxoo