The world is opening up. The economy is beginning to roar back to life. Many people are eager to go into their places of work. Conditions are perfect for a “return to normal”. The first myth trap.

The lull of normalcy

We are eager to go into our places of work, not go back to work. There is a difference. The return to normal myth was created to deal with our very human reaction to change. When faced with chaos and uncertainty the idea of going back to the way things were is comforting and confidence inducing because we have been there and done that. And that is the trap.

People have gotten on with work, they do not want to go back. We think we are providing comfort with talk of “returning and “going back” but, the opposite is happening. We have spent the last year learning and adapting our work behaviours and to be told to “go back” is like saying “unlearn that”. It creates stress and tension as we attempt to resolve these conflicting ideas.

Instead, be empathetic to the untold hours spent learning to operate in this new work environment. Ask people what is working best for them now, what could work better and how would they work best in future. The past is past. Use it to illuminate the way forward, and around the “return to normal” myth.

The myth trap of “just having a job”

Many of us are downright happy to go to work to get out of our houses or apartments. We want to spend time with others and a little facetime (without the screen) with our boss couldn’t hurt. We are happy to just have jobs. The second myth trap.

We are happy to come to work, but we are not going back (Myth number 1). We want options. Hybrid, hoteling, co-working. This will make us happy. We want meaningful work and a sense of purpose. That will make us happy. We want to know our companies have strong CSR programs and authentic values that are expressed in the work. That will make us happy. Jobs don’t make us happy. Meaningful, purposeful contributions make us happy. This is one of the fundamental shifts that occurred while we were out of the office. And it’s why we are seeing signs of The Great Resignation. We have had time to think and reflect on what is important to us. Some of us would rather make panini now than return to the old job.

The meaningful return to work 

Avoid this myth trap (and being compared to panini) by having discussions with co-workers on what meaningful work looks like, how might we all contribute better and differently in future? In my experience, these conversations are best started with a mindset shift from expecting gratitude for providing a job to inviting gratefulness for providing meaningful work.

Many of us are coming into work with baggage. We have stress, anxiety, mental health challenges and financial issues. It is a tangled mess of personal issues that are best left that way – personal. The third myth trap.

Health has never been more top-of-mind. Or complicated. These three levels of health, our physical; safety and protection from harm, our well-being; that comes from resilience and positivity and our financial; security and peace of mind, is the challenge of our times. And critical to healthy company performance.

If we are consumed by any one or all of these levels of health you can imagine how attentive, focused and interested we are in the work. So, we can’t leave health as a personal challenge now. We need to provide resources and support. But, you also don’t need a medical degree to help others to get past “where does it hurt?”. Remember that each of us has come through the past year differently, so offer safe spaces, be willing to listen and learn from this experience, together.

Trap avoidance is real

Avoid the traps of these unfounded notions that appear to explain the world right now. Discover the truth with real, authentic discussion.

Discussion. Listening. Asking questions. Learning. The first response I often hear from managers is “but, there is no time”. We have jobs to do, fires to put out. Plans to attend to. I get it.

I also know that company leaders that take the time to have these discussions, that mix in a few self-reflective exercises for employees and even customers, position their companies for better performance, faster than companies that do not take the time. These companies find an advantage in the insights and ideas of their co-workers and customers. Bottom line; these are the companies that get on with work. Faster and better than before.

Strategic leaders and decision makers at the company level have a tough job ahead. HR departments are working double time to keep up with this changing dynamic. What’s missing is a plan that fits your organizations’ unique needs and your employees’ wants. There’s a balance to be struck.

If your organization needs a clear plan on how to avoid the back to work traps, let me help. Schedule a call with me and let’s talk solutions to the big traps you might be facing.