Three months into the pandemic, being stuck at home is getting to people. As restrictions are starting to lift, some cannot wait to go “back to normal”. Others feel very uncomfortable with that thought.
It is important for leaders to show empathy for their teams’ concerns. Many are still worried about their own health and the safety of those they come in contact with. Particularly now, one badly phrased message can impact both motivation and morale.
Imagine being told to come back to the office “no matter what”, despite still being worried. You’d feel like your voice is not being heard, and you are merely commanded to do as you are told. Telling people their concerns don’t matter is very tone-deaf to what is happening in the world. Statements lacking empathy can leave a bitter taste of disrespect in people’s mouths. You want to reassure them instead of prematurely demanding they come back to where you can see them.
“Business as usual” wasn’t that great to begin with. People had to fight for their right to work from home once every few weeks. Time spent commuting is considered wasted, impacting our quality of living. In-person meetings are not more productive than virtual ones. Virus or not, there will be a lot of resistance to “going back” over the coming weeks.
Let’s not waste this unique opportunity to change what “normal” is. Remote work can be very productive if done right. We were all thrown into this unexpectedly and couldn’t spend much time planning for it. Now that we can, let’s consider what we have and shape it into something better. We can keep what is working and focus on improving the rest. We don’t need to race back to the office, particularly as people are still scared.