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Returning to "Normal"?

I’ve been reading about companies returning to “normal” and I have to chuckle to myself. What’s normal? And was it really that great?

My opinion is that there is no “normal” in business, and that’s not a bad thing! Mostly the references are pre vs post Covid, but I believe Covid forced us into some things that would have eventually evolved, clearly speeding up the time frame.

Certainly, virtual has taken on new meaning. It is interesting to me, though, how many companies have yet to communicate their preferences in virtual meetings/technology. Do you have a policy outlining your expectations? Are staff expected to be on camera? For all meetings or only as requested? Is there a virtual dress code established? Have you specified what can or cannot be on screen (i.e., animals, children, competitive products, etc.)? Have you addressed any propriety or privacy concerns (i.e., who can listen in or even from where you can work)? What about safety? Have you asked employees if they have safety concerns that need to be addressed (whether its ergonomic or other) or have you established remote safety protocols?

As a manager or leader in an organization, do you know how you’re addressing employee performance in a virtual or hybrid setting? Have you talked with your staff about that and what it means?

And, of course, there are those who say they want their staff to return/remain to the office. In some settings, this makes perfect sense. In healthcare, for instance, many staff needed to be on site to work with patients; same type of situation for retail stores or production lines, along with other industries. However, if you had staff that could and/or did work from home, why do you want them back at the office? And that’s not a trick question.

Many managers would have said absolutely no to remote work pre-Covid and are now finding it can make sense and be productive. Others never grew truly comfortable with it and/or had productivity issues or other indicators that on-site work is best for their organization. The point is, regardless of where/how you want your staff to work, you should be able to communicate your reasoning. “Just because” will not go very far in motivating or retaining staff.

If you want to continue with a remote workforce, let them know what’s working and why. If you want to bring people back, even if it’s hybrid, there needs to be a reason why, beyond not wanting to pay for empty real estate. Whether its productivity reasons, creativity, team building, company culture or something else, tell your employees the why.

Being honest in your communications and setting clear expectations are the best things you can do for your staff.

If you’re simply yearning for the old “normal,” you need to get over it. Life is ever evolving and that’s what helps us grow and move forward.

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