The pandemic has changed the nature of workplaces as well as work practices. As we slowly move toward resuming work from office spaces—whether completely or partially—there is bound to be apprehension and anxiety. As Ragavendran N., assistant general manager at a leading retail chain, who has now returned to work along with his team of 400 employees, puts it: “The present work scenario is not the same as it was before Covid-19 and my priority is to keep his team safe. My sense of accountability toward my team members and their health has increased manifold.”
The transition is a challenge. So, how do you ensure that you continue giving your best at work? How do you manage your mental health and that of your team members? How can you and your team adapt to the new normal? Here are some simple ways of doing this:
Keep the communication channels open
Make sure you are communicating with your manager, team and peers. Sharing experiences, inhibitions and apprehensions will help navigate this change. Be open in expressing your views; consider creating a forum where concerns are addressed. However, it may be a good idea to keep this as direct communication to avoid a negative cascading effect in case of a problem that is easily solvable.
Whether it’s you or others in your team, those who have had to lay off team members or direct reports may be suffering from “survivor’s guilt.’ As a leader, be proactive in addressing such issues and provide as much factual information as possible.
Put people’s safety first
Make an effort to understand the safety measures taken by your organization. If you are convinced of their efficacy, assure your team members that all precautions are being taken for their safety and well-being. If you are not convinced, communicate your concerns. Employees would be more willing to come back to work if they know their organization is putting their safety first. As Sadaf Tahir, employee from the essential services sector, says, “We had no option but to continue and resume work at our full capacity. We understand this and appreciate the efforts being taken by the management to keep us safe.”
Acknowledge the fact that the “normal” has now changed, and be open to exploring different work models, whether for yourself or your team. You could consider hybrid working models, with a part of the team working remotely and the rest going to the office—they will be a safer option at this time.
Emphasizing the importance of hybrid working models, Manisha Sachdev, Learning & Development Head at ITM Business School, says, “We have decided to implement this as we return to office. Some of my team members who commute from far would get the much-needed respite of not having the compulsion to travel every day. So, my team would be divided into two, and attending office physically would be on a rotational basis.”
As you take these precautions, it is also important to be mindful of your mental and physical health, and that of others. Being sensitive, displaying empathy and working as a cohesive unit are key to overcoming the current challenges and coming out stronger, together.