Like so many aspects of life, how we move through our work and careers has changed forever. You might even wish you could return back to how you managed both before COVID-19, because it was both familiar and comfortable—in fact, our team hears this from many professionals!
While we can’t turn back the clock for you, we’re here to help with tips and advice to help you navigate two particularly challenging aspects of the “New Normal” you might be experiencing:
New Normal #1 – Truly Connecting With Remote Team Members is TOUGH
Very few companies were prepared for our recent transition to remote work, but impressively rose to the challenge. While some of the scrambling has subsided, you might still feel disconnected from your team members and, as a result, less effective when collaborating and/or leading them. How can you avoid the inevitable frustrations and burnout that comes from this?
There are the more obvious paths of using project and time management tools, ensuring file sharing is secure and easy for everyone on your team, and creating streamlined opportunities and platforms for quick connect, check-in, and progress review conversations. Unfortunately, these measures are only half the battle. To ensure that your collaboration is effective, efficient, and engaging, you’ll need to address the human aspects of working remotely.
The first thing you’ll want to master is asking for clarity because the fact is that no matter how clever your project management tools are or how your emails are written, there is always room for confusion. Confusion kills connection. Clarity builds it.
Tips for asking for clarity:
- Own your confusion: Beware of using accusatory phrasing such as “You’re all over the place today.” Try “Would you walk me through that again? I want to know more about X.”
- Make your request specific: Rather than expecting the other person to intuit the details that were unclear to you, name what you understand and what you do no.
- Summarize: If your meeting or conversation has included a lot of information, summarizing what you’ve covered is a great way to identify gaps or unclear points on either end.
The second key to connecting with your teammates from a distance is keeping your finger on the pulse of what’s going on in their lives. Without water cooler breaks or break room birthday parties, this can prove challenging for newly-remote teams.
How to do it:
- It’s not always easy, but we take the time to chat about non-work items on a regular basis.
- Start conversations with “What’s new with you?” before diving into the details or a project or initiative.
- Likewise, make a point of sharing your personal updates – this can go a long way in greasing the wheels of conversation and keeping.
- Help team members celebrate their top personal and professional wins by sharing them (with permission) during team meetings.
In a time when your teammates might be juggling work from a makeshift workspace, while keeping an eye on children, or caring for an aging parent, understanding those variables are just as important and ensuring you know their status on a deliverable. No app or analytics will be able to deliver the essential data this question provides about your team, and it’s this information that will help you to truly connect with your team and collaborate effectively as a result.
New Normal #2 – Reentering The Workforce Isn’t What It Was
Even in non-pandemic periods, job seekers find reentering the workforce (whether after a layoff, maternity leave, taking time to care for a loved one, or other pauses in employment) to be challenging. There’s the obvious fear, worry, confidence loss, and trepidation that comes with a prolonged absence. What if your skills aren’t up to date? Could you be out of touch with the trends of your industry? How should you explain your gap in employment?
We’ve found that answering those questions and eradicating anxiety around reentering the workforce lies in being strategic about your next step. Being strategic about your next step isn’t limited to thinking through the company type, job title, and industry you’d like to work within. The reality is, that what you want out of a job has changed since you were last employed—it’s essential that you’re clear on these variables.
Maybe you don’t want to go back to the grueling schedule you once had. You may crave flexibility to work from home and set your own schedule. Your preferences might be less about title and pay, and more about the type of work and team. Reentering the workforce isn’t what it was. By necessity and by design, companies offer various opportunities not limited to a Monday-Friday, 9-5, W2 position. Before you begin targeting roles, ask yourself: “What do I want my work life to actually look like?”
As the world continues to reopen, the “new normal” will take on different meanings across areas such as healthcare, education, recreation, and others. While things might feel chaotic, you’re not powerless when it comes to your work and career. Step out of survival mode with a proactive approach that accounts for the needs of both you and your coworkers first.