Back To Work!

Lisa Thal

For many of you listening, you remain working remotely due to COVID 19. For others, we are getting ready to head back to our office buildings. After ten weeks, the time arrived, and I started my path back to work at our offices. I joked with Olivia that I had become accustomed to having my three co-workers Phoenix, Dakota, and Denali, our fur pups joining me every morning for my zoom and client calls, my coaching calls with my team. We had created a new routine of working together.

If you are like me, I had to prepare myself mentally. At home, I didn’t need to wear a mask unless I went to the store. Yeah, get ready, makeup and business attire was returning. Many working parents I talked with looked forward to getting back a few days so they could have more focused time on their business. Parents became teachers in addition to the work and the multiple distractions that happen all day for them. The stress of the quarantine tested some marriages and relationships. I guess that is why we have schools, workplaces, gyms, coffee shops, restaurants and hair salons ( boy am I looking forward to my next appointment).

After weeks our HR team prepared us with guidelines and detailed instructions on what to do and not to do before returning to work. I grabbed my mask and headed to the office. One benefit the traffic was light. I must admit it was a strange feeling to put a mask on entering the building and walking down the halls, which were marked with arrows walk this way. Hand sanitizer and Clorox wipes everywhere for us to use. It was a very different feeling.

Other employees were returning, wearing their masks. To keep our employees safe, we created a staggered entry back, with 6 feet separation in the workspaces. What I realized is you could see some anxiety and uncertainty in the eyes of others. Wearing a mask, you lose the ability to see someone’s full expression. But the eyes do tell a story. The team was excited to see others, human connection, and camaraderie, something they missed from working from home. That first day back is an adjustment. I found myself losing a bit of focus and had to coach myself not to lose sight and get back to work. Just as I did when I worked from home, I remember someone stopping by and saying; finally, we can get back to work. I thought to myself. I had accomplished more work from home because there were fewer distractions.

Something else I came to understand is that each person has a story when faced with uncertain times. In sales, many of our team members met each day business as usual, even though these were unusual times. They remained focused on supporting their clients with ideas and communication to stay a resource to them. Others, not intentionally, let fear sneak in and shifted them in another direction. They found themselves more paralyzed by the daily events and lost the momentum they created before COVID 19. They convinced themselves, I will call on new clients when things get better, when others return to work or when business becomes more regular. ( They may be waiting a long time). My advice, don’t sit and stay on the sidelines too long. Many of your clients need you and your direction to help them. More importantly, it may be something you need. As leaders, it is our mission to navigate through these emotional situations.

What can you do?

Your time will come over the next few weeks or months, and you will need to go back to something that might resemble something a little different before COVID-19, I recommend starting your practice as soon as possible. Get up at the time you need to get up at, shower, get dressed, and allow the commute time to work. You may want to wear a mask, so you get used to the feeling of wearing it. However, you can structure your day to resemble the lifestyle you will need in the future, start by doing that. It’s a habit, after all!

Boundaries are going to be crucial when you return to work. What do you need to feel safe? What do you need to succeed? Yes, you may feel a little anxiety when returning, and that is normal. Map out what you need to feel safe and productive at work. Ask your manager for help to guide through the process. My recommendation is to take it one day at a time. Recognize our world has shifted and be patient with yourself as you work through this process. When you feel a bit overwhelmed, take a few deep breaths, calm your mind, and keep moving forward, and remember we are in it together.

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