How to reduce the post Coronavirus cultural shock
The impact of Coronavirus is unprecedented, never before have multiple countries across the globe gone into such a lockdown. In a matter of days people had the cultural shock of being told, and later enforced, to stay at home. Our everyday norms were stripped away resulting in work, the workforce and our workplace changing overnight, but yet how we will cope when our offices start to reopen? Will it be business as usual or will employers need to adapt?
Just a couple of days into lockdown a household will find a new routine, one that will embed over time, potentially making any return back to normal difficult.
Here’s a new typical working day routine:
7–9am: A three hour daily round trip to work is no longer, the alarm has been pushed back, breakfast is now a leisurely affair, the washing machine is already on and yet still at the desk (aka dining room table) 30 minutes early for work.
9.30am: Work now officially starts with a team virtual check-in, virtual being the new buzzword in town. For the first few days these were odd, who were these people who all of a sudden wanted to check in, and didn’t they have work to do? The office culture before was very much come in, get your head down, do your hours and if you’re lucky, leave on time.
Daily team catch ups may not have been the norm, but yet now that people are physically apart, these virtual check ins have taught us more about our colleagues and their home lives than when we saw each other in person.
1pm: Gone are the hurried dashes to a local overpriced lunch place to grab food to be eaten quickly at the desk, and in comes a YouTube yoga session or circuits in the back garden followed by something rustled up in the kitchen.
5.30pm: Home time…but yet already home?
The hours in between: Relatively the same as many of us can remote access into the office systems meaning, once you’re logged in, your home becomes your workplace.
This way of living has become the new reality
This new norm, albeit in extremely unsettling times, has led to a routine where work blends into the personal; our workspaces are our homes, the people we see daily are our families and instead of the sound of noisy co-workers we hear the whirling of washing machines.
But what does this mean for employers?
For companies, whose workforce can log on at home work, this allows them to continue trading relatively normally during a lockdown.
However they would be wrong to think that when the lockdowns lift, and the workforce are allowed back to the office, that everything will return to normal.
Here’s the problem
The normal as we know it will be different, but whatever the new normal is, we all need to prepare for the Reverse Cultural Shock.
If you’ve ever worked abroad for a long period of time, or perhaps as a consultant on a client site, you probably would have experienced Reverse Cultural Shock when you returned to your previous place of work.
During your time away you would have built new routines, met new people and learnt a new way of being, and the longer you’re away the more embedded this routine will become.
An experience like this can change you as a person, but yet, when you return you may find very little around you has changed. This often leads to Reverse Cultural Shock where you experience feelings of demotivation and sadness whilst you try to adjust back.
How to mitigate Reverse Cultural Shock
Employers need to:
- Adapt: review what aspects of this new way of living can now be embedded into the working culture to mitigate the number of changes. After all, your employees have proven they are able to conduct their work at home so now would be a great time to review your flexible working policy.
- Phase the return: once offices are allowed to open again, office days should be. reintroduced slowly. Start off with one or two days a week and slowly build it back up. Employees will not be use to their commutes, the working environment and may even experience separation anxiety from their loved ones having been with them 24/7 for many weeks (or months).
- Keep the rapport: try not to lose the team camaraderie spirit that has developed. If you implemented virtual check-ins keep them in the diaries as they are just as important during the return to work phase of the crisis as they were during it.
- Stay human: we all have been through this together however be mindful that everyone’s experiences would have been different. Some people may have lost love ones, or had minimal human contact if they lived alone, so we all need support each other as we and our nations rebuild.