How have you, your management teams and your staff fared over the past 6 months?

One thing we all have in common, almost around the globe, is the fact that the vast majority of us have experienced some element of curtailment to our movement, our ability to shop for daily essentials and our sense of personal safety/wellbeing.

What has been different for each of us, however, is how the consequences of the pandemic have manifested for each of us over past 6 months, both personally and professionally. Some of us have experienced illness, grief, heavier caring responsibilities, loss of work and mental health issues. On the more positive side of the scale some of us have learned new skills, have been exercising more and have re-connected with our children through home schooling.

How are you, your management teams and your staff feeling about work right now?

Given the above, the chances are that across your team (not to mention a whole organisation) different people will have had an entirely different experience of lockdown. This will affect how they approach work and may play out as a lack of empathy or even ongoing conflict in the team dynamic. These are the last things the team, or the organisation, needs as we work towards recovery from the social and economic challenges of the pandemic.

Speaking with some of our clients and partners, we have established that there are likely to be four different categories of people in organisations as we move towards the next phase of post-lockdown life:

1. Keyworkers

Those who have worked throughout, in key sectors, manufacturing, food production and distribution, for example, for whom lockdown merely meant less traffic on the roads, fewer people in the workplace, no canteen and perhaps a feeling of ‘keeping the organisation running’.

2. Working from home

Those who have worked from home throughout lockdown, in some cases balancing the need to home school, share wifi or devices with other family members, shop for shielding relatives or neighbours, and for whom lockdown meant working unfalteringly but largely invisibly in the background or on Zoom, having all the hallmarks of business as usual but without the office banter, the chats over the coffee machine and the physical togetherness.

3. On furlough

Those who have spent lockdown wondering if there would be a job or a business to go back to, with the excitement of being able to try new things (learning a language, getting fit, decluttering or nurturing a vegetable garden) tinged with the guilt of knowing that others envied the very illusion of freedom.

4. Loss of income from the start

Those whose work disappeared or dried up from the start of lockdown, for whom there was not even the ‘relative’ financial security of continued income through furlough, and for whom there was no guarantee of work post-lockdown.

The mix of these groups of people back in the post-lockdown workplace might easily provide a tinderbox of misunderstanding, envy and resentment. Our research suggests HR professionals are gearing up for a raft of difficult conversations and support to manage change as teams re-engage with each other after the different lockdown experiences.

As a manager, at any level, you need to understand where your team members are coming from, be that your senior management team, your operational managers or your front-line crew. This will really help you to manage the process of bringing them back together.

Our top tip for managers or anyone facing a similar scenario is this:

Go around to the other side of the table and look at the situation from another’s view of the world. Check in with your assumptions… and park them! In the words of Stephen Covey in ‘The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People’, ‘Seek first to understand then be understood’.

Support for you and your managers:

FREE WEBINAR: practical tips for managing difficult conversations on 29th Sept. Book here.

Core Management skills for Managing Through Uncertainty, including more free webinars.