The New Normal – What to Expect When You Return to the Office
Each organization will develop its own policy weighing up the benefits of returning to work with employee safety.
Many have announced indefinite remote policies until a vaccine becomes mainstream, others are waiting to follow the lead of government guidelines, and some are considering phased returns now as they put measures in place to prevent wide spread infection among their staff.
This situation is unprecedented. No one can know for sure when working culture will be back to normal.
When you return to the office, bear in mind that even with safety measures in place your colleagues will expect you to act in a way that keeps them (and you) healthy. Returning to in-person work does not mean you are returning to normal.
You are unlikely to have the water fountain hangouts with your coworkers, or any big sit-down lunch breaks.
It is likely that when you return to work, your employer will require you to wear a mask. Be generous to your employer, even if safety measures appear excessive, remember that they are liable for what happens in your office space and may have little control over the policy.
To avoid trouble with your boss, keep multiple masks on you or around you at work. Do not risk losing it and having to return home or missing out on meetings because you are not welcome in the room.
If you are the boss, you will be expected to set an example. Your staff will follow your lead. Make sure you communicate what’s expected of your staff in order to avoid any unpleasant conflicts between members of your team later on.
But probably the most important aspect to prepare for is the cultural difference you will see. Simple things like shaking hands and sharing an elevator may become awkward. People may not wish to share your office supplies and expect you to wipe down common areas, such as the printer area or kitchen, after use.
The important thing to realize is that these precautions are not personal. Your employer puts them into place to keep their staff safe. Even if you think it’s over the top, respect your company policies and co-workers’ safety precautions. You do not know what is going on in someone else’s personal life, so give them grace. They could be living with their grandparents or have a baby at home.
Don’t be offended by your colleague’s extra caution, even if it seems excessive. Communication is key. Be polite and let people know what you expect from them. If you are nervous about a colleague’s lack of care, talk to them. But do not be the office grandmother either. Your HR department is on hand should you need them.
Everyone is excited to get back to normal. No one is enjoying this. If you communicate with colleagues and practice safe working practices, you can make returning to work a smooth process when the time comes.