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Learning and Adapting: For a Seamless Workplace Reintegration in the Fall

The past fifteen months have been a learning experience for us all.  A true test of resilience, patience, leadership, emotional intelligence and in running a business in extreme circumstances without a playbook, roadmap or any sort of historical reference. ANY of the latter would have helped us wade through the quagmire that has been COVID-19 since it hit us, square between the eyes, in March 2020.

Retail, restaurants and other commercial venues are starting to open up, and after the summer solstice, we look ahead to collectively bringing our teams back to their office spaces and re-occupying the Montreal downtown core with a mix of enthusiasm and trepidation, hopefully after Labor Day.

For those businesses whose employees are still working remotely, the daunting task will be to address emotional, psychological and physical fears of employees and owners alike as we share the same spaces for the first time in almost one and a half years. If you thought sending your team home and setting them up to work remotely was difficult, bringing them back will be even harder.

Employers and employees will be addressing items never before seen in our lifetime, and complex situations and cases on an unprecedented scale. The needs of employees and management alike will be voluminous. Burn-out, depression and other mental illness cases will push the extremes of an already exhausted medical system still reeling from COVID. Consider yourself warned…

And while this all sounds painfully obvious, we must remember that strength in numbers, cooperation between businesses, support and understanding will get us through the next 6+ months as we try to reintegrate.

Consider these points as you address reintegration:

  • Continued work from home/remote work
  • Flex time and flexible working conditions
  • Technology (security) remote work without proper adherence to company rules is dangerous – one weak link in a corporate technology chain could prove costly to all.
  • New learning in areas of technology, management skills and emotional intelligence
  • Being empathetic and understanding, focusing on soft skills as much as hard, technical skills.

However, instilling a culture of life-long learning is a must for all. Therefore, as you return to physical work locations in the fall, or if you already have so, consider the following as you navigate the reintegration of a workforce in whatever size and shape that may take for your businesses:

  1. Don’t waste what you and your employees have learned since the beginning of COVID – evaluate the good and the bad, and then continue to implement change.
  2. Understand and respect those around you as they may have to reintegrate at a different pace.
  3. Learn how to manage remote workers when this fits into your business model – not just enough to get through the pandemic, but enough to maintain this going forward. It will enlarge your talent pool and help to retain valued employees.
  4. Constantly improve the skills of your team and look to hire life-long learners. Evaluate your training programs – the more au courant your team is, the more they stay relevant for your business and themselves:
    • Lifelong learning is now roundly considered to be an economic imperative, and job candidates or employees who consider, update, and improve their skills will be the high performers, especially over the longer term.
    • Pressing ourselves on the question of how we learn is a huge and important question – one for which we must be open and honest with ourselves before our employers and teams.
    • The world and the workplace have changed considerably in the past year. The skills we need to function and flourish have correspondingly changed.
  5. Analyze how your industry may have changed since March 2020 – avoid the tendency to resume “business as usual” and look to make changes, improvements and upgrades that the pandemic has accelerated in our respective industries.

As I see it, you have two choices: come back and resist change, while the world changes around you, or up your game and find a way to lead your team, industry and community and ensure that the past fifteen months of hardship and challenge have a positive impact on those around us. We will all win with the latter.

Until then, remember to benefit from some well-deserved down time. We will all need it as we reintegrate our teams…and our communities. We count on you to help us all rebuild a vibrant and dynamic future!



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