We are seeing colleagues from the Zoom perspective. Children sitting on co-workers laps and cats walking across the screen. We have been through an enormous disruption, in our work and home lives. As we re-enter post-Covid, it’s essential to carve out time to acknowledge those shifts, in order to be present to our colleagues and to our work. We need to tell our stories, and to hear others’ stories, to re-engage and to unify our team.
Our everyday lives have been upended by unpredictability and the ever-changing definition of the “new normal”. We’ve experienced a loss of direction and feelings of uncertainty. If we don’t create the space to acknowledge those feelings, people may feel resentful, as Tony Suchman MD, principal of Relationship Centered Health Care, has said. The Covid disruption creates a unique opportunity to create new habits of interaction and a culture of empathy, which became more of the norm during the pandemic.
I’ve facilitated several conversations to help clients who were feeling isolated and at loose ends to feel connected and supported. As a coach and facilitator, I do a lot of listening and creating opportunities for people to share and process their experience. My three-question format for enabling people to reflect on the shifts in their work and home lives are:
- What have you lost or something that you can’t go back to?
- What new experiences have you gained?
- If you’re going back to the office, or work, what worries you most? What are you looking forward to?
Asking people to verbalize their experience helps to build trust with colleagues. It helps us go beyond transactional relationships (“Can you help me get this task done?”) to more caring connection. When we understand the challenges that a co-worker is facing, we tend to be more understanding and less critical if they don’t finish a task. This kind of connection can reduce potential conflict.
Here’s a sampling of some responses the question, “What have you lost?”
- Focus, innocence, predictability, feeling that we can’t go back to our old lives, loss of direction, loss of client work and job loss.
Here are some answers to “What have you gained?”
- Time and space for personal reflection
- Familiarity with online working and learning
- More time with my husband and son
- More acceptance of “work from home” arrangements
- Connecting with other employees
- Acceptance of uncertainty and discomfort
- Clearer sense of my priorities
- Having dialogues that bring healing
The conversations around “what have you gained” were powerful and moving. From my observations, the upside has been an increase in empathy, greater comfort with “work from home” arrangements, and a sense of balance in our lives.
Providing the opportunity for people to process their experience will help your team acclimate to our new normal, whether that means continuing to work from home or returning to the physical workspace. We can intentionally create an organizational culture of caring and empathy. As the saying goes, “The best way to predict the future is to create it.”
If you’d like help on how to facilitate a conversation for your team or co-workers, email me: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thanks to Jamie Resker for her edits.