Prepare for change when normal returns

Your place of employment called and changed your hours from eight-hour shifts to 24 hours for the same amount of money. What’s your reaction?

Shock, awe, anger?

Similarly, at the beginning of the year people might have spent 12 hours per day with their family, which includes sleeping time. Then in mid-March they transitioned to 24-hour surveillance. No breaks from the kids or the spouse.

Even though this change was sudden and unwelcomed, we as human beings adapt. We figured out our new systems and created our new daily habits. When the offices reopen we all need to transition again. What can we expect? More changes — especially changes in appearance, systems and emotions.


The office surroundings might appear different than how we left them a few months ago. Many companies are accommodating the need to continue to socially distance. More space might be added to common areas, like break rooms. Seating assignments could be changed so that rooms are not overcrowded. Our co-workers might look different. Remember, the hair salons and fitness centers have been closed the past couple of months.


Even though parents might be excited to return to the routine of the office, they have concerns and responsibilities that are not returning to the old norm. Their minds could be focused on their family’s safety or day care challenges. Employees will need flexibility from their employers. In order to continue working, some team members might need to continue working from home until more of the world norms return.

Working 9-5 is another system that was purposely adjusted out of necessity. Our co-workers have needed to transform into a home-school teacher and a made-to-order chef during the past months. Work shifts during the stay-at-home mandate might have been in the early mornings, midday during naptime and later into the evening, rather than a continuous, focused eight-hour shift. As comforting as it sounds to return to the normal work-day routine that we knew before the pandemic, it might not be possible.

Our daily routines have changed. Rumor has it that showers have been optional. Work attire has been business casual on top and comfortable on the bottom.

I know for me, my feet have not been in heels in months. My slippers are a necessary piece of my daily attire. We expect employers to mandate normal business hygiene and full business casual dress code when returning to the office. Do not be surprised if employers also instruct team members to wear new protective gear or masks in certain office spaces.


What about our co-workers who live alone and have had limited social interaction? What challenges could they be experiencing? The noise of the office might add additional stress and be a distraction.

Depending on each person’s behavioral style we will see some dominant co-workers frustrated with the loss of control and the reduction in productivity and purpose.

Others, normally inspiring team members, could show signs of loss of energy or even depression.

Another group of supportive people will feel guilty because they enjoyed this time where life slowed down a bit. And another cautious group is disappointed that fellow human beings have been careless and have not followed the rules to get rid of this disease.

Regardless, we all need to be empathetic to the reality of life. Returning to the office will not be an easy switch “back to normal.” We all need to focus on these relational reminders as we socially un-distance.

• Flexibility is necessary. Working from home might need to continue to be an option so that employees and their families can transition to new routines.

• Emotional support and conversations are a critical piece to our healing. Fear, depression, anger and loneliness are a few of the emotions that people might be feeling. However, we all like to put on a social mask so these emotions might not be obvious. That leads to the next tip — give mercy and grace.

• Mercy and grace and forgiveness will go a long way. Remember that we are all in this together. We need to assume the best and give each other what we each need.

Our dominant, inspiring, supportive or cautious behavioral styles could take over during our interactions. Consider all styles while we lead each other back to normal.