"I forgot how to people."
Businesses all around the country are starting to reopen their doors to slowly allow workers to come back to the office. While some are eagerly running through the doors full-force, excited for human contact, plenty of others are approaching more cautiously, equipped with disinfectant spray in one hand and a six-foot stick in the other to keep others at appropriately safe distance. Regardless of which scenario you relate to most, there is one thing we all can agree on: It’s been a long time since we had to coexist with these people in the shared workspace.
Single-filed lines in the hallways, temperature checks before entering the building, a ban on open or shared containers in the break room, wearing masks and much more will become the normal rules for the (social) distant future. Along with those safety considerations come plenty of personal needs and preferences for precautions, as well. As we work our way toward business as usual, it’s important that we understand and respect the needs of our coworkers as we return from working in isolation. Even if all you can think about is being able to run right up to your office BFF after three months apart for some good old banter, they may not be ready for that much proximity yet.
"It's not you, it's COVID."
There are going to be strong emotions for a little while. Taking a few steps back (mentally AND physically) to “read the room” will be an important part of the daily challenges we must all tackle in this new way of doing things and interacting with teams. Being able to gauge your actual sense of control will allow for you to understand how to control what you can and allow you to let go of what you can’t. In addition to everyday workloads and new rule policies, it’s also going to be a task to manage those scary thoughts. In uncertain times, it’s easy to get caught up with the “what-ifs” or doom-and-gloom news headlines. Make it a new daily goal of yours to be aware of how much media you are consuming and find healthy and happier ways of coping with and countering it. Lastly, having an understanding that your coworkers are managing all of this at their own personal speed should remind you to slow down and offer compassion to yourself and everyone around you.
Some have adored every second of working from home this entire time and are begrudging the fact they must wear pants again. Others thrive off human interaction and have been counting down every single day until they can return to the office. Be patient with one another. We are having to figure this all out together, while also trying to find out how to place our individual self into this new puzzle. Slowing down and taking one day at a time will be the very thing we all need to move forward with this new normal. Together, but six feet apart.
Here are some tips for how to navigate the new emotions and restrictions of being back in a shared space: