It seems like things are trying to return to whatever normal is now, which includes heading back to the office for many. Some celebrate, others mourn, while COVID-19 and its accompanying fear keep going.
Returning to the office has a lot of positives and negatives, depending on personality.
On one end of the spectrum, there will be high levels of depression and despondency, while for others there will be excitement coupled with a pent up need to make up for the lost time away from colleagues.
And everything in between.
When preparing to return to the office, an authentic leader does two things right off the bat:
Tag themselves: A leader who desires to be with their team realizes they must first understand their own mental needs to be able to serve others. This means identifying which category they fall into (depressed, ecstatic, or in between) and plan their initial days back accordingly to make sure their cup is filled. If you feel the pending doom and dread looming over the return date, you may want to hold off on your usual amount of meetings to allow for breathing time and less energy expenditure so you can maintain energy for your team. If you are chomping at the bit to return, then maybe look to schedule an office activity that accommodates physical distancing. Regardless of where you fall on the spectrum, you need to make sure your cup is not empty so you can support and be with your team in this emotionally charged change.
Tag others: Identify how you will provide a solution for those on your team who are on either side of the spectrum. Despondent people feel they have lost something important and need to see the positives that exist in the physical office setting. This may be accomplished by a personal note sharing how happy you are for them to be on your team attached to prepackaged COVID-19 approved food they can enjoy in private and consider the positives of their office situation. For those who ache to catch up in person, set aside some protected time and a location that allows for appropriate distancing and play a game, such as Jeopardy (there are some pretty cool ready-made PowerPoint presentations online that are just plug and play), that provides insights into what people did over the shelter-in-place time. Most importantly, know employee benefit options available through your organization related to mental health and share them consistently with your team. Once is never enough.
Employee mental health is a must and will be top of mind for authentic leaders who desire to be with their team.
Regardless how you choose to return to the office, there needs to be intentionality to know yourself, your team, and provide the support to ensure the success of your people.