Pandemic Support

Pandemic Support: Six Ways to Reintegrate Yourself and Your Team Back into the Workplace

designadmin Guidance

I think it is safe to say that every one of us has changed as a result of this global pandemic. Not only has the fear and the anxiety and the threat of illness and loss been brutal for so many to endure; so has the sense of isolation. As we re-enter to a world of semi-normality, some people are dealing with new levels of stress about what life will look like “on the other side” of Covid.

While there are people who are eager to get back to a life they used to know, others are literally terrified about the prospect of going back to an office or space where they will have to be in close proximity to other people.

One of the common threads I have seen with my 1:1 clients, as well as the organizations for whom I provide Trauma Intelligence Training is this: “How do I not only make myself feel okay about re-entering the world of in-person work, but how do I help my colleagues and team feel okay too!?”

To respond to these concerns, I have curated a list of six ways to reintegrate yourself and your team back into the workplace. Each of these suggestions is based on my observation of and response to individuals and teams. They also all point to the importance of honing in on this newfound collective perspective, and the importance of considering not only your own perspective, but that of those with whom are are surrounded as well.

1. Ground Yourself and Your Routines First

The first step to creating a safe and constructive reintegration environment is to find rootedness in your own self-care and routines first. While this may sound self-focused; it is important to remember that the more we care for ourselves, the more present we are, and the more we have to give others.

Things to Consider:

  • Routines and rituals that make your days more structured and predictable.
  • Connecting to peers as allies in your mutual focus on personal care and accountability.
  • Evaluating what personal accommodations you need in your days to return to the office safely and productively.

2. Ask

It is very common for leaders to feel responsible for anticipating what their team members need. While a certain ability to predict and respond is useful in a leadership role, it is important to remember that it is okay and even preferable, to ask your team directly how they are feeling about the return to the office. Asking them what is true for them also allows them to know you not only care but that you are also willing to listen and respond.

Things to Consider:

  • Asking your team for their input takes the pressure off of you to know “all the answers” and allows them to feel equally engaged in their reintegration process.
  • Your team members may have better ideas about how to support one another than you, alone, can create or construct.
  • Giving the team a voice also allows for a cohesive and connective return for everyone involved.
  •  Make sure to ask, but also give individuals the opportunity to take their time in responding – and to not feel put on the spot.

3. Don’t Assume

If you are anxious about returning to work, your feelings are, of course valid. It is important to understand that not everyone will share the same feelings you are experiencing. While some people are recognizing that working from home is preferable for them; others are eagerly anticipating getting back to space where they have a regular engagement – in person – with their colleagues and peers.

Things to Consider:

  • While there are some similar anxieties people will experience upon returning to an office environment, not everyone is going to feel or respond in the same ways.
  • Team members who are more extroverted may feel despair in having been away from the office for a prolonged period of time, while introverts may dread the social return.
  • Both responses are valid and both points of view (as well as those somewhere in between) need to be validated and addressed.
  • Having group discussions, as well as time for 1:1 processing throughout the week can be beneficial for successful reintegration. The more supported and connected team members feel, the more smoothly the return will go.

4. We Have All Changed

No one is the same person as they were before this pandemic. This awareness is crucial in not assuming your long-term team members will be returning to the office as who they used to be. It is not only important to acknowledge this reality to your team but to provide conscious opportunities for re- connection upon return.

Things to Consider:

  • Group activities that inspire connection and fun are encouraged (non-alcohol related is preferable). Team-building and engagement not only increase workplace satisfaction but also increases productivity.
  • Be open to shifting team responsibilities and/or reorganizing communication techniques based on learned awareness of each individual’s post-pandemic evolution.
  • Share openly about your own value shifts with your team, so that they can understand how to approach you and navigate their needs more effectively.

5. Provide Tangible Resources

What things are in place within your organization to support the physical, intellectual, professional, mental, emotional, and social health of individuals? What resources exist for those same supports locally? These questions, as well as the consideration of how to help team members who are new to the local area to feel connected are important to consider.

Things to Consider:

  • Both digital and paper resources should be provided. Do not underestimate the power of an actual, physical document in serving as a transitional connector between yourself as the leader and your team members.
  • Collaborating with other organization leaders to own the creation of different aspects of the resource guide is highly encouraged (i.e. one person looks for social resources, another for mental health resources, another for professional development resources, and yet another may provide the design and layout structure for the document).
  • When in doubt about what people want, don’t forget to go back to recommendation two: ask.

6. You Didn’t Cause this and You Cannot Do it All

If you are reading this, you are already an empathic and invested team-player. In even taking the time to consider your team’s needs for reintegration and how to best serve them, you are on the right track. While all of the things above are important and encouraged in order to successfully reintegrate your team post-pandemic quarantine, it is crucial to remember you cannot and do not have all the answers. If you are overwhelmed or feel you are never doing enough, go back to the basics and never forget to ask for help and support for yourself.

Things to Consider:

  • Realistic awareness of what you can help and what you cannot change is crucial in the reintegration process. Providing team support and guidance, while balancing that with consistent boundaries around self-care and work/life balance is important.
  • Reintegration will be an ongoing process. Always add new ideas and collaborate with your team as new information emerges.
  • If you are feeling stretched too thin, overwhelmed, or flatlined, do not forget to go back to step one: ground yourself and your routines first.

If you or your organization are seeking more tips and tools in not only reintegrating your team post-pandemic, but also how to respond to trauma int he workplace, contact me here to learn more.