How are you feeling about the idea of returning to work, more importantly how are your team feeling? Even putting to one side concerns over ” is it safe” and “should the country be returning to work”, they’re likely to be have mixed emotions. That means is a time to think about how you manage people returning to work and your leadership.
Two weeks into lockdown
After the initial ‘change’ people reacted in different ways. Many struggled managing staff ‘working from home’ and needed tips to improve remote team meetings. There was lots of discussion about whether ‘lockdown is the time of the introvert’ and well as how we’d all get through it.
Two months later, returning to work
Two months later many staff will have mixed emotions:
I can work, without the kids being in the way
Will it be safe
Do I want to go back
I’m really looking forward to being around people again
At last, the chance to get on
Many people will be craving human contact, while worrying about meeting real people again (not just your introverts).
Have I got out of practice of socialising?
Will I be better just hiding away?
How should I get back into meeting people?
“Will everybody be even louder than normal”
“I was able to concentrate and get more done at home”
Many (especially introverts) enjoyed the quieter ways of working, the more controlled levels of human interaction and were more productive as a result. How can you maintain or enhance that productivity increase?
Introverts and returning to work
Most workplaces have a mixture of quieter introverts and noisier extroverts. Many introverts are worrying that extroverts will be even noisier after 2-3 months of their own company.
There’s a danger that the joy of socialising (even introverts enjoy socialising) will be swamped by the shock of moving from 100% controlled and peaceful work to a much noisier version.
A big frustration for many introverts at work is not being heard in team meetings and discussions. Will this be worse now with extroverts being louder than before? Will they block out even more of the discussions for themselves?
In normal times introverts are not fully productive in many firms (survey data), add concerns about return to work and this is likely to be worse. One of your roles as a manager or leader is to maxmise the productivity of your team. Awareness is a great starting point.
Managing return to work for introverts
Lockdown has given us time to reflect and learn. There are simple things you could do to ease the return to work. There are also things you could do that would permanently change how your firm works (increasing productivity as a result).
- Nervous staff: Be aware of the different emotional states of staff, take time to discuss their concerns one on one. Dealing with their concerns prior to their return, will make things much easier.
- Coordination: Who could help you coordinate the team and their return to work? Before jumping for the normal staff who put their hands up for everything, how about quietly asking the quieter staff? It’s a role that introverts and their love of detail) could do well at, and it will help them ease back into socialising. It’s certainly better than doing it yourself.
- Adjusting work patterns: Who in your team worked well in lockdown? What is it that made them more effective in lockdown? Now is a good time to discuss work routines, or rearranging the balance between home working and office working. For those that were more productive working from home, how could you keep that gain? Semi homeworking could be more productive (for some people and some tasks) and could save you office space, desks etc.
- Rearranging the office: One of the productivity issues in open plan offices is the level of noise and disruption caused by being open plan, Could less people office allow for a quiet area for without discussions and phone calls. This could help many work more productivity (especially introverts).
- Team meetings: A remote team meeting will never feel as good as everybody being in the room together, for some subjects. Well managed, shorter, remote meetings could be a more effective way of running things in future. If you do that, consider getting other staff to facilitate them instead of you. That would help you listen, rather than manage the process. It is a role that introverts can be especially good at (no, really!).
We have all (introvert, extrovert and everybody in between) been through very unusual times. Returning to “normal” will feel very odd too. What simple steps will you do to make it easier for your team?