Returning to Work: Finding Balance Between ‘Old’ and ‘New’ Normal
While the world continues to adjust to life in a coronavirus-impacted world, we are starting to see some small reversions to ‘normal.’ Beaches and parks are opening up; restaurants are taking reservations; retail stores are getting back to business. But of course, as we’ve been speculating for months, while quarantine and strict stay-at-home orders are being lifted, we’re not exactly returning to the same normal we left behind these turbulent months ago.
Instead, we find ourselves entering that novel concept of a ‘new normal.’ At Caster, we’ve returned to our small office in Wakefield, Rhode Island (where coronavirus numbers keep improving), just three weeks ago. And, like the rest of the world, we’re taking precautions to balance this uncertain precipice between ‘old’ and ‘new’ normal.
Here’s what I’m learning so far:
- It’s a balancing act.
First, we all experienced a stark change back in March by being thrown into a new, 100%-remote work style (not to mention the added stress of the surmounting virus). To prevent the whiplash of another 180-degree turn, some of us are opting to take things a little slower in the return, coming back to the office a few days of the week, while still working from home when we feel like we need it.
This principle of striking the right balance is always important—not just during coronavirus time. But now, more than ever, we’ll have to learn to ease back into our ‘old’ normal with a ‘new’ normal mindset. For example, even though I’m back in the office full-time, I’m still keeping my remote work station set up and fully-functioning at home, so I can toggle back and forth as needed—whatever that ‘right’ balance may be.
- Team communication will always be important.
One of the hardest parts of being remote for such an extended time was not getting regular face-time with my team (we all know that Zoom calls, as much fun as they can be with Don Draper’s office as my choice of my virtual backdrop, just don’t cut it!).
During remote time, we maintained regular team check-ins via video conference to keep the productivity going—and to the keep the camaraderie alive. Inevitably, however, I feel like we all spent a little more time on Slack during remote work, as reducing team communication is simply not an option.
Being back in office, I have a new appreciation for how important it is to be able to chat face-to-face (albeit while maintaining a precautionary six-foot distance!), because team communication is not something you can put on hold, as it is and always will remain a vital component of brainstorming, bonding, problem-solving, and so many other important parts of the workday.
- Routines are helpful—but don’t get too set in your ways.
I’m a creature of habit, and I like sticking to my daily routine, i.e., having coffee at the same time every day (I go for the post-lunch coffee, since I prefer tea in the morning.) and organizing my lists with the same almost-neurotic color-coding strategy (I do use too many highlighters.).
While routines are helpful for adding structure and familiarity to our day, they can also become a hindrance and even a crutch if we adhere to them too strictly. (Sometimes there’s just no time for the afternoon coffee.)
What I’ve learned from transitioning to all-remote and back again is the importance of remaining flexible. To be honest, the first few days back in office were a bit rough for me, personally; I was cranky and confused and felt like I had stepped into the Twilight Zone. After months of careful adaptation, I had finally learned how to feel comfortable in my at-home routine, and I felt like I was being displaced yet again.
But humans are quick to adapt, and I was back in action (and even more productive than before!) within a week. Still, the 360-turnaround pointed out an important lesson to me: Routines should give you a stable ground on which to stand, but you shouldn’t be so lead-footed as to fall when the ground beneath you quivers.
After three weeks back in the office, life doesn’t feel like the ‘old’ normal yet, and it probably never will, but I and my co-workers are doing our best to keep pace with the rapidly evolving concept of our ‘normal,’ and I know that we’ll all come out still standing.
How are you managing with balancing work life in this crazy, coronavirus world? Let me know @merryshoebell.