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As provinces across the country prepare for the grand “restart”, many are considering how to return employees to the workplace. Of course, some workplaces have had employees onsite every day but even those will have lessened the numbers coming in each day and some employees would have been working from home throughout. In the span of 15 or so months, many organizations went from a “work from home can’t work” mentality to “go home and work” reality. This was a shock to the system when it started, and we are kidding ourselves if we think the return to work isn’t also going to send shock waves through our workforce.

There is no doubt that the pandemic has been difficult to navigate, and many say that we have been through a collective trauma. The shifts and transitions that our entire workforce has gone through has been both exhausting and insightful. We have experienced new ways of working, communicating, and connecting, some of which have been highly successful and some of which have been utter failures. We have learned lessons through it all.

As we progress through the restart stages, it is important to slow down and think things through. The rush back to what was normal before is a lost opportunity and could have serious consequences. Here are three things we want to you to think about, and beliefs we want to challenge, as you plan your return to work.

  1. Normal is not normal.  It is time to let go of our belief that with the flip of a switch, we can bring people back to work and life will go back to “normal”. The pandemic has changed us all, forever and going back to normal isn’t going to happen. So why not look at this as an opportunity to truly evaluate what works and what doesn’t work and create a new normal.
  2. The world is different. Not only has the pandemic been incredibly impactful on us as human beings, so has other societal shifts such as the increased spotlight on diversity, equity, and inclusion. As organizations, we must consider these shifts and think through a return to work that takes equity, access, and inclusion into consideration. For example, does a hybrid model ensure equal access to information for both those working at home as well as those working in the office? Only if you make sure of it.
  3. We are still tired. The overarching trend throughout the pandemic has been the impact on our mental health. Employees have been adjusting to the new way of being and this amount of change, transition and turbulence is exhausting. The very idea of having to adjust again with a mandatory return to the office is enough to make a person, well, quit. So, take your time with your plans, give people space to adjust, take both the individual and the collective into account and give everyone time to adjust.

Your Engaged HR Assignment:  Take a breath or as we say a lot around here – slow your roll. A return to the workplace doesn’t have to happen overnight. Think things through and reach out to us if you need any help!

The planning of a return to the workplace is complex and we will be sharing a variety of blogs about this over the coming weeks and months as we adjust and adapt and consider what being back in the workplace means. We are all learning and growing in this new world!


Looking to learn more about other HR topics? Check out our Art of HR series!

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