Getting Unscared; What you need to know to return to work
Covid-19 came into our lives like an unplanned, unwelcomed visitor. Businesses, restaurants, airports and borders were shut down suddenly. We were forced into our homes and warned it was unsafe to go anywhere. Streets became empty, social interaction came to a halt and mundane tasks like grocery shopping were instantly accompanied by anxiety. The message we heard was that this invisible micro sized virus was to be feared.
Along with this new reality came new stressors: working from home, having the responsibility for educating our children, decreasing our social footprint to the space in our homes, minimizing contact with the outside world and pivoting business strategies to digital channels.
Now, months later, we are being told to return to work. Say what?! It’s a divergent message fraught with significant dissonance from the original fear-filled communication. Yet, it’s still the same invisible micro sized virus at play and anxiety and fear is palpably felt all around.
Here’s the deal. The feelings are real and they make sense. Let me suggest a way you and your team members can process them.
First, name the feelings. You may feel…
- Sad – There may be ‘wins’ you gained from your time at home: increased family time, home cooked meals, less social commitments, elimination of commute time, less hurry, less spending, less focus on personal appearance, increased opportunities for learning and hobbies, and more.
- Angry – Can the government take our civil liberties away like this? First forcing us into our homes and now forcing us back to work? Is my employer more concerned about making money than my physical & emotional safety?
- Glad – You may be bored of being at home with little variety of activity in your day. You might even be looking forward to having more structure, increased variability in your day and connecting with coworkers.
Whatever your feelings, name them, validate them and connect them to a thought or situation as you see in the examples above.
For most CEO’s, entrepreneurs and leaders, talking about feelings can seem trite, inefficient, unproductive and a waste of time. I’m here to suggest that listening to your team’s feelings, validating them and doing what you can to respond to concerns your team raises is critical to developing trust with your team. When trust is developed your team will be poised to be more connected, more creative and more productive. It is also being a good human.
Secondly, after naming your feelings and validating them, you can switch to your cognitive side and look at the facts. Here’s a couple I find helpful:
- For most people, the immediate risk of becoming seriously ill from Covid-19 is quite low.
- The risk of fatality with infected people is also quite low: For people under 50 yrs of age the mortality rate is well under .2%, 50-59 yrs = .6%, 60-69 yrs = 1.9 %, 70-79 yrs = 4.3% and over 80 yrs old = 7.8%.
- We have learned there are specific things we can do to significantly mitigate the risk of contracting Covid-19. Physical distancing, proper hand hygiene, and refraining from touching our faces are steps we can all do.
- Remember, the same internal resources you accessed to pivot to work from home and self-isolate, will help you make this adjustment as well. Character traits like resilience, problem solving, creative, flexible, strong, trustworthy, disciplined, hard working, and self compassionate to name a few.
Name & validate your feelings, bring factual information to the table to get a balanced, rational perspective on the situation and remind yourself of your strengths and resiliency. We dealt with the stressors that came initially with Covid-19 and we can deal the new stressors that come with going back to work. We are getting through this crisis together.