While some of us can’t wait to get back to work after staying at home for over a year, others are struggling with the change. Commuting and working with your team in-person adds new stressors to your life while you recover from the pandemic, but priorities—and relevant skills—in the workplace have changed during the last year.
Instead of pushing a productivity-centered mindset and encouraging you to bury your personal life, you might find that your office values adaptability and emotional intelligence skills more highly than ever. Mindfulness, emotional awareness, and change management are just a few ways to balance responsibility and stress management better.
Learning to develop these personal soft skills can make bouncing back less stressful in the “new normal” work environment.
Here are a few essential skills to work on as you return to in-person work—they might just help you find a new routine that reduces anxiety and stress.
1. Active Listening
Emotional awareness means more now than ever. People may work under intense anxiety as flu season rolls back around, even if they got the COVID-19 vaccine. They might feel nervous about voicing their concerns or practicing self-care.
Active listening will be a crucial emotional intelligence skill when you figure out how to adjust to change. Listen to what your coworkers or clients say and try to hear what’s between the lines. You could divide their workload differently or give them more time for stress-reducing activities.
The workplace has always needed employees who know how to communicate effectively. Now, in addition to basic communication skills, you’ll need to know how to discuss sensitive topics, like pandemic-related fears and losses. You might eventually need to address your own uncomfortable feelings or concerns with your boss.
Work on being honest with yourself and others, expressing your thoughts clearly and effectively, and remaining open to feedback and adjustments in your schedule and responsibilities. Doing so can help you refine your ability to address change in both your personal and professional lives. No matter what’s on your mind, you’ll have the tools to bring it up and work things out effectively.
When someone feels embarrassed, shy, or uncomfortable, their worst fear is getting talked over, cut off, or not heard. Having patience with yourself and your coworkers is more important in the post-pandemic workplace. It makes people feel safe, and safety enables people to be more productive, which could be your most significant professional challenge.
If you’re struggling to have patience with yourself or others during the readjustment period, remember that patience requires empathy. Eliminate any self-judgment or discrimination for anyone who’s having a hard time, especially after everyone’s just lived through the same world-changing event.
4. Strategic Thinking
Thinking strategically will look different in the workplace as everyone learns how to adjust to change. Traditionally, strategic thinking is about planning for the future. But now, no one feels confident about predicting anything. The best current strategies will always have a bit of flexibility built in.
Talk with your boss if you’re feeling unsure about working in-person full-time. You could plan to follow through with 40 hours every week and have a backup plan that includes a few days at home every week if you feel too anxious. Creating backup plans will serve you well in future projects and jobs because, even when there isn’t a pandemic, the future is unknown.
5. Problem Solving
Solving problems at home may look a little different than in the workplace. Your coworkers aren’t your kids, so approach problem solving differently when dealing with new workplace problems. You might find new ways to move meetings or projects online so people can stay home if they’re uncomfortable with returning to work after COVID-19. You could also suggest rearranging the kitchen area or installing plexiglass barriers to make people more comfortable in a close environment.
Understanding the challenge personally will help you find the best solution for everyone involved. That won’t be difficult to do if your coworkers share the same anxieties related to bouncing back in a new-normal workplace.
Change management requires research because it’s the key to formulating immediate solutions and extended results. You don’t need to have experience in handling management problems to become great at it when you’re back at work. Dive into research that pulls from books and case studies related to your career.
If your company has a sizable employment roster, it may also have guides saved within the Human Resources or Training departments. Read through anything related to your current roadblocks to discover any strategies that might help everyone process what needs to happen.
No one can manage people or workplace changes without brushing up on their leadership skills. You may have found success in daily emails and regular Zoom meetings while you worked from home, but those won’t provide the necessary connection needed when everyone works in the same building.
Build trust with team members and demonstrate your care for their well-being during their workplace readjustment by always asking how they’re doing. Use their feedback to adapt your strategies and refine the research that shapes your new workplace goals. Nobody makes a better leader than a mom — if you can raise kids, you have so many skills to bring to the workplace.
The most talented people in management won’t know how to handle everyone returning to work after COVID-19 if they don’t understand how to measure their progress. Identify key performance indicators (KPIs) for every goal and reflect on them to see whether you’re helping your team or treading water.
KPIs are a critical component of learning how to build change management skills. Without them, you’ll never know if you’re utilizing your leadership and emotional intelligence skills effectively for yourself and everyone on your team.
You can also figure out how to build self awareness in the workplace by analyzing your skills and progress as an employee. Think about — and maybe even make a record of — how you moved from one KPI to another or completed a KPI individually. If there are holes in your research or process, it will point out how you can adjust your performance and make the workplace a better environment for everyone to grow.
Compassion is the root of mindfulness and emotional awareness. Just like you have empathy and compassion for your kids, model it in the workplace. Other people may have different stressors than you. You don’t need to have experienced precisely the same things during the pandemic to understand each other. Look for the common themes, like fears or ongoing depression, that stemmed from isolation in quarantine. You’ll connect with other team members based on their humanity and build trust with them because they feel cared for.
Learning how to build emotional intelligence in the workplace and adapt your change management skills takes time. Use these tips to make your new work-life simpler for yourself and others. When you show flexibility, empathy, and emotional awareness for your coworkers and supervisors, they’ll value you more, and everyone will feel more comfortable in the office — and in our new normal.