As our region starts to open up again, offices are beginning to bring employees back into the workplace. Suddenly, our world changed in March – only to shape the way we interact with each other in what experts are calling, “The New Normal.” Coming back may seem uneasy, awkward, and even scary at first. Our teams at Applied Innovation have taken the past three weeks transition back into the office – and it’s been a smooth experience so far.
Walking into our building for the first time in nearly three months was a different feeling. It was exciting to finally see all of our co-workers in real life, and not on a video conference call. It also brought on many thoughts. What is the new normal going to look like? What can we all do to promote a healthy office?
The New Office “Normal”
Temperature scans & Health Surveys
Breakfast meetings and the good ol’ water cooler banter was now accompanied by stepping in front of our new, state of the art Personnel Kiosk that incorporates a Body Temperature Scan and detects if you’re not wearing a mask. “From an HR perspective, I never thought part of my job would consist of checking employees temperatures, making sure everyone fills out a health screening questionnaire and making sure employees are wearing masks when around others but for the most part, everyone has been accepting of this new normal,” says Heidi Killingham, a newer employee and an HR Specialist at Applied Innovation.
TIP: If your organization requires you to fill out a daily health questionnaire, set a calendar reminder. It’ll significantly help your already busy HR department from having to follow up with all non-compliant employees.
We wear masks while walking throughout the building and common areas, but are mask free while working in our own office or cubicle. Instead of matching Apple Watch bands and shoes, we are now choosing face masks to match our clothes. “It is a little weird having to wear a mask in the workplace, but I am hoping it will evolve,” says Laura Daniels, Contracts Administrator at Applied Innovation.
TIP: Get yourself 2 masks – One to keep at your desk and one to wear while walking in and out of the building.
Lunch time is one of our favorite times of the day. Not only do you get a breather half way through the day, you also get to break bread with your office buddies. Even though the lunch period is separated by shifts and only 1 person to a table inside, we’ve been able to socially distance and eat outside, taking in the beautiful weather and still enjoying the lunch chit-chat. They’ve even allowed us to eat lunch at our desk to reduce the number of people in the café at all times.
TIP: If your organization allows you to eat at your desk also, reserve some time to go outside and enjoy the day, boost your vitamin D, and breathe some fresh, unmasked air.
Even though videoconferencing was the only mode of “in real life” communication when we were working from home, many organizations are still utilizing software like Microsoft Teams or Zoom to virtually collaborate, even while staff is in the office. Instead of hosting a meeting in a crowded conference room, the new normal seems to log-in to a virtual meeting, pop your AirPods in and conduct business through your screen.
TIP: Purchase an inexpensive set of headphones or wireless ear buds to keep at the office.
Emotions are still high, and we may not go back to how things used to be for a while, even as our States are opening back up. It’s very important to continue to keep your positivity strong and find innovative ways to lead your team through this unusual transition. We’ve been very lucky to keep a handful of Dr. John Izzo books and videos on deck to share with our employees to practice a healthy mind and continue to find purpose while we work to understand our groove.
TIP: Find a webinar or video seminar to share with your leadership team to help coach the positive mindset. Dr. John Izzo has been instrumental to our success by providing advice on Leading and Thriving During Times of Uncertainty.
Even with social distancing, we’ve realized it’s very important to bring a sense of togetherness to ensure employees do not feel isolated. Applied Innovation has provided whole office lunches several times since we’ve been back, and our President has sent multiple videos to update us on happenings around the office to keep us connected. Culture is the backbone of our organization, so it was extremely important for the leadership team to restore it quickly.
TIP: Create a day where you can show your appreciation to your employees and restore your office culture, whether the effort be large or small. It could be as simple as lunch, or as complex as a team building (while social distancing) event. Coming back to the office after being gone due to a stressful time can be an easy and smooth transition if you put effort in to normalize the culture.