The return to work after quarantine
How to deal with suspicion, uncertainty, and resignation
Months ago, we locked ourselves up in our homes, thinking that the time of the pandemic would be just a few weeks of home life. No one imagined that there would be no greater certainty about the days ahead at this time of year. Still, many people must return to their traditional workspaces.
For those who have the possibility of returning to work in their traditional spaces, looking at this new reality brings contradictory feelings. On the one hand, there is the enthusiasm of the reunion with colleagues and the possibility of sharing other horizons to abandon the “survival mode” of these past months.
On the other hand, this return also involves suspicions about the threats that people will encounter when they return, uncertainty about their careers and work roles, and resignation over a frustrating landscape with no engaging perspectives.
The fear of those who still have their work is not related to the loss; it is related to the place framed by uncertainty. It is the uncertainty of adaptation after the months of lockdown; it is the uncertainty of interaction mediated by protocols and barriers; it is the uncertainty of a calendar without further references about the future of that uncertainty.
This return to workplaces involves new emotional challenges. People’s emotional capacity to deal with suspicion, uncertainty, and resignation will be critical to transforming personal and collective performance. This moment will be a crucial transition in addressing recovery and resilience.
Why does returning to workplaces generate suspicion?
The first emotional challenge involves the fears that people bring to their workplaces. People will come back suffering: fear related to the employment situation, anxiety associated with the epidemiological risk in the organization and relationships, and worry related to one’s career and personal development possibilities.
What can you do to address the threats?
To address these feelings, people must address three issues. First, identify the key directions of their work for the coming months; this means what the organization has established as productive priorities for its role. Second, maintain spaces for dialogue with their superiors and colleagues to update these ideas and not create false premises. Third, update the job description to keep personal performance aligned with the organization’s guidelines and needs.
Why do you need to create alternatives in work?
The second challenge involves new ways of working. Facing unfamiliar conditions requires an innovative approach to current and potential circumstances. Creativity is urgent because of the collapse of classical models. Organizations will need to test alternative solutions and new interventions to deal with unprecedented demands.
What can you do to expand the creativity of solutions?
To bring creativity to your workplace, take part in different groups and teams. Create relationships with diverse professionals, with people of different experiences and points of view. Finally, propose “pilot” experiences; this means trials can mean possibilities of innovation for your organization.
Why do you need to redefine career expectations?
The third challenge is related to frustration about the future. People lean out over a landscape with many unanswered questions. This point implies recovering personal confidence and enthusiasm about the next steps, even under the uncertainty of the present, to avoid covering the future with resignation and despair.
What can you do to deal with frustration?
To deal with frustration, consider two points. First, do not pursue certainties because there are no certainties because of the world’s volatility and leaders’ vulnerability. The desperate search for certainties generates more anxiety, resulting in compulsive and reactive responses with many strategic risks. Second, do not merge the emotions of the present with the emotions of the future.
Projecting the emotions of the present into another dimension will generate frustration, hopelessness, and helplessness. To be architects of a different future, one must approach it with other emotions than those of the present.
In previous months, organizations have maintained a survival response. This conception assumed that, after the pandemic’s impact, they would return to the routine where they had left off in the first months of the year.
However, this is an illusion. Accepting these new living conditions’ unpredictable permanence, the organizations prepare for the comeback, considering all health care. Emotions are an essential part of people’s health and will be at the core of personal and global performance recovery. Therefore, they are essential aspects that must be incorporated into general health care.
Psychologist, Ph.D. in Communication and Master in Neuroscience. Author and postgraduate professor. Emotion researcher www.marcelomanucci.com