When the Covid-19 pandemic first starting gaining traction and gaining world-wide awareness, I recall resolving to abstain from blogging about it. First and foremost, I felt it was so prominent in the news, that this coupled with social media adding to the information already out there could potentially create fatigue in readers saturated with too much on the receiving end.
Now however, as many organizations recall or prepare to transition their staff back to workplaces, I feel the climate might be right for a read. While many have talked about a return to what once was deemed, ‘normal’, I personally rather feel that our, “getting back to work” might look very different. I’m just not sure in all cases if what becomes our new, ‘normal’ will be recognizable as what we’ve experienced and how we’ve gone about work in the past.
It is clear that some businesses were forced to adapt how they moved their services and products into the hands of their customers. For many, this meant creating webpages, learning how to conduct transactions online, discovering anew how to market themselves and yes, go find their customers who in the past were the ones finding them. For many, I gather this was not such a bad thing whatsoever. In fact, some business owners have said they knew the need was there to explore online marketing or sales, and the pandemic gave them the push needed to adapt rather than fold.
Employees who were fortunate to keep their jobs during the worst days of the pandemic had in many respects, the greatest adjustments to make. For those who worked in the community in face-to-face contact with the public, their customers or clients and guests, this meant using personal protective equipment. Where that used to conjure up images of someone in a nuclear power plant or working in a lab, it meant ordinary folks were donning masks, face shields, using hand sanitizer frequently, refraining from getting within 6 feet of others, and sneezing into crooked elbows and all the while refraining from touching their faces. Did you notice just how often we reflexively touch our faces?
For the employees who suddenly found themselves working from home, there too was adjustments. There were Zoom, Teams, Skype and Ring Central Meetings to learn about. There were webinars and online team meetings to attend, renovations to be made so space became private and business appropriate. There were children passing in and out of camera views, tails of cats suddenly walking by online and dogs heard barking off screen who needed to be taken out and let back in. A knock on the door became a true event of curiosity and excitement; after all, we were in the belly of a pandemic and people just weren’t supposed to be out and about.
Some business thrived though. Courier vehicles delivering packages started making more than the odd appearance – dare I say daily as I observed. Amazon and Wayfair simply buzzed with activity and many chose to avoid going in supermarkets altogether and simply ordered their food in advance and waited in their vehicles for personal shoppers to bring out their purchases. That $3 or $5 fee for the service might have initially seemed an extravagance, but compare that to the many dollars saved when not buying impulse items. Personal Shoppers and Covid Checkers outside businesses were jobs that came about only because of the pandemic.
And now, we contemplate or have already begun the business of returning to work. How are you feeling about that transition? I remember John, Paul, George and Ringo first singing all those years ago, “Get back! Get back! Get back to where you once belonged.” Odd how we might feel trepidation or anxiety the first few times we get back. The problem is that some people will immediately revert to handshakes and hugs while others will be cautious and adhere to social distancing. What do you do when someone shouts your name and walks over briskly with their arms open wide? What do you do if you’re the one looking for a hug and a previous hugger suddenly holds up a hand and says, “Whoa! What are you thinking?”
And this is where Management teams have to assert themselves and both educate their workers as well as set the standards themselves. If and when people ignore the health standards and requirements, just like any other health and safety offence, a conversation and/or discipline has to follow.
Maybe that’s the understanding we all have to have; right now, shaking hands, hugging, choosing not to wear your mask properly – these are similar to not wearing your steel-toed boots or tying off your safety harness. The only difference being you get in a nail in your own foot or you fall and kill yourself. When you don’t wear your mask or don’t respect distancing, you potentially harm not only yourself, you potentially harm co-workers, their families and anyone they come into contact with.
People’s feelings are to be respected and are valid, no question. When one’s beliefs don’t align with others, in this instance you turn to science and experts; not the kind you find in a random online search, but subject matter professionals.
When back in the workplace, my hope for us all is that we feel safe, secure and respected; whatever our new normal becomes.