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May 6, 2020


How To Find the New Normal in Our New Normal

By: Stephanie Ebbeler, Vice President, Human Resources

Right now, my days are filled with helping business leaders navigate these uncertain times and encouraging balance amidst the unease, discomfort and fatigue people are feeling. The question I’ve been wrestling with lately is, “How do I help leaders find the new normal in the new normal?”

People everywhere are mourning the loss of normal – we're mourning the thought that we'll probably never go back to exactly the way it was and that's too enormous for us to take in. This is causing churn and energy shift. People are suffering from work from home fatigue brought on by the lack of human interaction, work boundaries along with the barrage of video meetings and virtual happy hours.

How can business leaders provide people with the direction and encouragement they need? How can they help steer their teams to lean into this new reality? Here’s my point of view on three areas of focus.

Help people understand their sense of purpose

Many of us have just been pushing through the current situation, but we need to stop and acknowledge that this is a new chapter. This new normal has leveled things out – we’re all on the same playing field, except for our ideas and brains. We all have our different barriers to overcome and it’s equalizing.

Don’t miss this opportunity by being so focused on the tactical. Just checking the box will decrease people’s capabilities. Be thought-provoking and ask questions of your team members to get them involved like, “what’s not working and how can we be better?”, “what can drive growth in this new world?” and “where can we deliver new services?” This will help tether them to their purpose and encourage them to keep chasing it.

Check in (for real)

People are dealing with so much pressure right now and being forced to quickly adapt to new work and personal circumstances. If your people are showing up to work but aren’t bringing their best selves, there may be some underlying struggles that you can support them through.

One thing you can do to help is deliberately checking in with your people – beyond a quick “Hi, how are you?” Consider establishing a new meeting cadence and rhythm to connecting with your team members. Allow them to breathe out and have a safe space to voice how they’re feeling and adapting to all this change. If they’re struggling, think through why and how you can help alleviate that in the future.

Foster collaboration and teamwork

The office environment of our old normal allowed team members to feed off interactions with others for energy. I’m concerned that our new normal lacks play and that we’re not having as much fun or bringing levity into our days. We need to experiment with ways to improve that environment and team connectivity virtually.

In addition to play, collaboration and innovation are suffering. We’re not whiteboarding or brainstorming. The quick huddles aren’t happening, and if you forget to copy one person on an email thread, you lose their ideation. We need to be more open and intentional about creating quick, random moments to check in and run ideas past each other instead of being cautious.

Even when we return to our offices, some things may never go back to how they were. It is our responsibility as leaders to continue to support our people and provide encouragement as they accept and adjust to our new reality.