You’ve Made Some Big Changes. Now What?

Work-life in the COVID Era

How much sleep have you lost thinking about reopening your office? It isn’t an easy decision, and there’s no ‘one size fits all.’ Industry, scope and scale all weigh in.

Some of you have chosen to mitigate your risk significantly by keeping your workforce at home. After all, your productivity never truly diminished, and the cost of a pandemic hitting your employees like one big domino could be catastrophic.

Yet others have decided that productivity has suffered due to plummeting motivation, so back to the office you go. Regardless of your decision, there is a whole new set of challenges that await you…

One of the biggest obstacles may be somewhat invisible, yet potentially calamitous: the opinions of your employees.

Some are overtly vocal, rallying troops to their camp. Others mimic poison, silently seeping into the bloodstream of your culture, though not in a noisy way. There will also be a faction of folks who are pleased with the decision and eager to execute. Regardless of the differing perspectives, most will be emotionally charged even if they are using logic to validate their positions. 

This can put you in a precarious position as a leader and decision maker. Weighing in on any sides of this table can win you as many foes as friends. So what will you do?

Here are a few guidelines to consider as you continue to blaze your trail:

You can’t please everyone, but you can gain clarity. You may need more information before you have all the facts. Consider conducting a short survey so that you can more readily differentiate between your feelings and the feelings of the majority of your employees. Read articles on the measurable data being collected by companies that have already brought their workforce back to the office. From that place of knowing, you can make a decision with greater confidence. The second you step out of this balance, you run a high risk of becoming too accommodating or too rebellious – both of which will fracture your culture.

What you once envisioned to be your happiest, healthiest and most productive workforce has changed. There is a new normal for all businesses. What will yours look like at its best?

Once you create a vision and make a decision, you will have to create new policies to both support your decision and the well-being of your workforce. No small task. Do your due diligence. Without it, the holes in your plan will be filled with the toxicity of negative emotions.

Every great leader embodies compassion and empathy. In this historical timeframe, you can lose your ground (and your strength) if you attempt to sympathize with every person’s situation. The challenges for your collective workforce are vast. The spectrum of emotions is wide. Set your intention to create a healthy culture and then let it go.  Focus on the vision, not on everyone’s problems, and you will succeed.

This is prime time for individuals with low emotional intelligence to channel their angst in inappropriate ways. Just as the old saying, “hire slow, fire fast,” implies, don’t allow that type of negativity to take hold. Be sure to speak directly to the person who is blaming and shaming others. Let them know it won’t be tolerated. Outline clear direction for the type of behavior you expect them to exhibit as well as the consequences should they choose not to make the necessary change. The longer you ignore it, the more the damage increases – sometimes exponentially.

Leadership isn’t easy. The COVID era has forced every leader to up their game. No matter how mentally and emotionally drained you feel, you are not alone. Remember to take care of your own basic wellness so that you maintain a clear head. 

The reward is relative to the courage you exercise. Keep your eye on the destination and push through your fears one by one as they come. You may not see the light yet, but it always appears. Everything in your career prepared you for this moment. Step into your leadership role fully and faithfully. 

And one day, believe it or not, you will actually enjoy sharing all your stories. We all have them. Nevertheless, if you think at any point you are experiencing too much risk and too little reward, pull in an objective third party to help you regain insight and stamina.

This is a time in history that is bigger than all of us, no matter how exceptional your leadership skills may be. Sometimes asking for help is the greatest sign of true strength.