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You have a plan. One which you think is effective and highly considerate of individual specific needs, but you haven’t had a single response since you emailed it out to your team last week.  What’s going on?! 

‘Normal’ responses

Times of change make people feel unsettled so we can probably multiply those unsettled feelings by a thousand when we consider the unprecedented events of the lockdown.  We have never experienced anything like this before, so please don’t expect ‘normal’ responses when you start to communicate plans for your staff returning to work.  Firstly, communicate in person, every time.  For now, only confirm what you’ve said by email, don’t introduce anything new in that form.  And before you introduce anything new, give people time to talk to each other online to share their lockdown experiences.  Have no agenda other than to find out how everyone’s doing.  Then schedule a further online meeting to discuss how the transition back to your new normal is going to look. 

Ongoing feedback

Before the meeting you can give people the opportunity to email you with their thoughts, either for them as an individual or for the whole team, but clarify that nothing will be decided until the whole team has had an opportunity to consider the draft plan and offer their feedback.  Also confirm that it may not be possible to meet every preference of every staff member, but as much as possible will be done to accommodate requests to support people and make their transition back to work as effective, safe and healthy as it can be.  Ongoing feedback should also be sought as plans might need to be changed.  Our responses during the lockdown changed as we found out more and your transition plans will need to be flexible too.

Be kind

If an individual refuses point blank to engage with your offers to communicate and engage with the rest of the team, you’ll need to speak to them one to one, online.  Try to make sure they have a private space in which to communicate, as their fears might not be something that they want to share with their family or the people they share their lockdown life with either.  If you can make them feel safe and give them the time to explain their concerns, you can build the conversation over time to make arrangements for them to re-engage with their work and the rest of the team.  Ultimately, if the pandemic and the lockdown has made them re-assess their priorities, you might need to have a conservation about supporting them to leave the organisation and that can be done with great kindness and compassion too.

Look after yourself too

One thing’s for sure, as a Line Manager your work in the coming weeks and months will be to manage the expectations, concerns and anxieties of your teams.  Make sure that you’re looking after yourself well and check in with your own Line Manager to give regular updates on progress so they can support you too.  If that’s a less supportive relationship, use the available peer support around you so that you can stay well as you work to keep others well.

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By Karen Warren,
KW Inner Strength | kw-innerstrength.com