Yesterday, I was faced with the first face-to-face meeting since lockdown with a prospect in the city, followed by our first get together as a Taurus team in The Rocks with wine and cheese.
Both encounters were met with a mix of considerable excitement, discomfort, unease and awkwardness. Should I hug my team? How does the excitement of seeing each other play out? Should I stand far from the prospect? Should I accept the glass of water offered? Were the seats distant enough? Should I actually give the prospect our printed pack of info? Was it OK to breathe in the same air for what turned out to be a 2.5-hour meeting in an enclosed space?
When I automatically offered a handshake to the new prospect, it was slightly awkward to suddenly withdraw my hand at my meeting hosts aghast expression.
With my team, there were certainly open hugs, absolute openness, no fear and no concerns. Others, there remained significant distance, a little dance to dodge each other, side on hug, hand on heart and even an ankle touch.
It struck me, as leaders and business owners, we might need to invest the time upfront, to prepare ourselves and our teams, to transition “back to the office” in a way we have never had to before.
Without this foresight, you risk a period of transition that is undetermined, permits discomfort for some, insecurity and fear for others and may create a few false starts. It is likely you, your team and the community have forgotten how to interact face-to-face on a personal and business level and are not sure of the new “rules”.
This is a gap, as a leader, you can easily fix and take control of to smoothen out. Moving back into your office space is like giving up a sport and the associated training for three months. For some the road back to fitness is instinctive, for others a hard slog and others will resume like a duck to water. The important reality is, the experience is not going to be the same for all your team.
For some team members, they may have moved on and entered a whole new way of interacting. In the case for some in my team, the threat of viruses on family members with challenged immune systems is just all too scary to be anywhere near an office environment for the foreseeable future, and they need encouragement, reassurance and empathy.
Well before COVID-19, our norm was back-to-back face-to-face meetings and gathering together was joyful. As you take those first timid steps back to physical office space on Monday 1st June, and we observe the 1.5m rule, it’s going to look and feel a little strange.
Take time out now to address anxieties some team members in our care may be facing as we start the step back to the new, “business as usual.”
Here are some tips to help ease the hesitation, smooth the process and make the comeback a comfortable success for everyone.
Good luck! Welcome back.
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