Months ago, 15 since we’re all counting, the world as we knew it shut down. It was a screeching, scary halt. And yet, in time we came to terms with it. We bought gym pants instead of work pants, slipped on slippers, zoomed meetings to milestones and learned to enjoy the small, quiet moments of life.
Now, as the world reopens nearly as quickly as it shuttered and we try to button our pants and walk a mile in real shoes, it might feel like a rude awakening. Of course, there are glittering, bright personal spots like hugging family, traveling with friends and not having to pretend that you’ll ever bake your own bread. However, the whirr of normal(ish) brings with it some equally stressful professional moments we all need to grapple with.
For starters, we’ve all been operating at a slower pace. We haven’t had to put ourselves together and fight traffic to get to work on time. Deadlines were more flexible across the board and grace was given for our emotional well-being. But, as we begin to rip off the proverbial band-aid, the slow-down is going to speed back up. In fact, it’s already begun. Work trips have been booked, offices are re-opening and hybrid models are up for debate.
So, the question must be begged. How do we as businesses and as leaders help define normal(ish) in a way that incorporates what we’ve learned, while still preparing for what’s ahead? If only there was a perfect answer. In the absence of one, we figured we’d start with a few good ideas:
- Set boundaries: During the last year, we worked from our dining room tables and our children (the four-legged and two-legged kinds) popped onto screens. The fourth wall was broken, and though we don’t want to build it back completely, it is important that we start establishing boundaries again. Working through weekends and holidays seemed okay when we had nothing to do, but that’s not the case anymore, nor is it healthy. Emailing at all hours because time was a lost construct didn’t seem all that strange, but if we’re not careful it will be an exhausting and toxic part of the new normal. Therefore, it’s necessary that we start to re-establish guidelines on appropriate hours of operation and remind everyone, including ourselves, how important it is to create a work-life balance.
- Prioritize: With everyone getting back to work, picking up tabled projects and planning events (or planning anything quite frankly), it can feel like everything is a priority. But the truth is a priority, by definition, means that it is more important than something else. Therefore, if one thing is a priority another thing is not. All this creative circling to say, not everything is important. Which means we need to be strategic in our planning and determine what must be done for business success and what can wait. Once there is confirmation on which items take precedent and which are secondary, it makes it easier for everyone to do their job more effectively and efficiently.
- Communicate: Things are going to be weird and uncomfortable, and while it might feel better not to have human interaction after months apart, communication (verbal and non-verbal) will be key. In fact, over-communicating may actually be the way to go at the beginning. There’s been so much ambiguity that being clear and direct will help mitigate confusion and fear. When expectations are set and there’s an open line for continued conversation, everyone from employees and clients to vendors and friends are better equipped to handle the new normal.
These are just a few ideas we’ve had to help bridge the gap between what was and what will be, but we’re always open to hear from you and your teams about how you are returning to normal(ish).