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We’re entering a new phase in the pandemic…. the return to work. I believe this will be the most difficult phase for businesses in the COVID -19 crisis. Why? Because we have to manage culture in the face of significant differences in how people feel about the risk of spreading or getting the virus. I believe that these differences rival the political divisiveness that exists in this country. It’s about to get ugly in public. How will it show itself at work? How will it impact the “team” culture we cherish?

This past weekend, while running on the Schuylkill river trail outside Philadelphia, I witnessed first hand several disputes. It was between people wearing face masks while running/walking/biking and those who weren’t. The face mask wearers verbally expressed their anger at those not wearing masks… it was a scene witnessed multiple times while on the run. Tensions were high. I thought to myself – we are in a time where patience, tolerance, and acceptance of different views on this issue is critical and essential.

  • Some people will be comfortable returning to the work environment we left, and some will not.
  • Some people will be comfortable in large gatherings and some will not.
  • Some people will get anxiety when coming within six feet of each other, others will not
How Will You, as a Leader, Handle This?

To maintain a strong culture, it will be important to respect differences of opinion and create an environment of acceptance. Now, I’m not suggesting that people have an option of whether or not they return to work. I am suggesting that you seek to understand where everybody is at and meet them there. We are all doing our best to maintain a healthy state of being and navigate what is a very personal matter of opinion.

There are of course varying degrees of feelings and regardless of the spectrum, we still want to emphasize the importance of following the recommended CDC Guidelines. However, as states slowly begin to “reopen” and the “back to work” process begins- please keep the following in mind.

  • If you are a person who is on the more cautious side, please do not judge those who are not. If you are not comfortable in a situation, remove yourself from the situation. This is where you can maintain control.
  • If you are a person who is ready for the jumpstart to normalcy and daily life, please do not judge those who have real fears and concerns. We must respect these very real feelings and the reasoning for each individual’s preference.

As a leader, I suggest that you do a survey of your employees to understand where they are at with their return to work thoughts and what concerns they have. It will be important to both your employees and customers to implement CDC standards. It will be important to talk about the precautions and be willing to adjust policies where needed. It will be essential to do these things to keep your team and culture strong and safe going forward.

Stay Safe, Be Healthy, Be Well –

Brian Nolan

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