Why I Hope the ‘New Normal’ Sticks Around After the PandemicIt’s a phrase we’ve all said at least once or twice this year: “I can’t wait for things to go back to normal.” While I agree there are plenty of things that I miss about the pre-pandemic world — joining friends for lunch at our favorite restaurant, chatting with my employees around the office, and having in-person meetings around the conference room table — there are some unintentional consequences of COVID-19 that I hope stick around once things are back to normal.
At the very top of my list? Giving people more grace.
In hard times such as these, we’re finding that what matters most is the people around us. The act of maintaining traditional business practices, like working straight through 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. every day, suddenly feels less important. Over the past six months, I’ve seen that I can trust my employees to keep business moving — even if they do it with sweatpants on, no makeup, and their kids on a Zoom class in the other room.
As we enter a new phase of the pandemic, I’m challenging myself and other leaders to continue to give those around us grace and let some of these “new normals” become normals moving forward:
1. Bring your true self to work — and ask your employees to do the same.
When COVID-19 eventually passes, and we’re able to resume somewhat normal workdays in our offices, I’ll encourage my employees to continue bringing their “true selves” to work every day.
After I’ve seen your kids in the background of meetings, heard your dog bark when your Amazon packages arrived, and shared a glimpse of your sweats on video, there’s no going back. We’re all human, and we’re all doing the best we can. I’m hopeful we can remember that once we’re back in the office.
2. Consider a more flexible policy on work environment.
Employees do their best work at different locations — whether that’s a coffee shop, a kitchen table, or a cubicle — and even at different times of the day. When offices reopen for all employees, give your team members the option to choose how they work. This also makes it easier for them to care for their children (some schools may remain closed even once offices reopen) or other relatives while addressing any other personal matters that we’ve seen come up more often.
What’s more, this kind of flexibility will improve the happiness of your team and, in turn, boost employee retention and business results. If your business is thriving and moving forward during the pandemic while people are working remotely, why can’t the same be true after the pandemic?
3. Keep putting in the effort to connect with employees.
It’s harder than ever to connect with co-workers. Gone are the days of chatting at the watercooler or enjoying lunch together in the break room. Even in a company culture that fosters real and candid relationships at work, I’ve had to step up how intentional I’ve been about connecting with employees.
I’ve started over-communicating with my team to keep everyone up to speed on what’s going on at the company, the daily tasks that need to get done, etc. I also try to encourage open discussions about topics beyond work to bring some lightheartedness to the often overwhelming day-to-day. I hope to continue this trend of over-communicating and intentionally connecting with my team long after COVID-19 is over.
While the pandemic has brought quite a bit of chaos to our structured business world, a few good things came from it. Namely, the realization that giving those around us grace — and finding the positives in the hardest of times — can foster a great workplace environment now and after the pandemic.