Embracing the Better Normal

“Normal” is such a relative term which encompasses a broad spectrum. Since the start of this pandemic, the phrase “new normal” has been used everywhere for just about every situation. The idea is that the pre-pandemic world was “normal,” and the current pandemic situation is the “new normal.” But post-pandemic life will, of course, go back to the pre-pandemic “normal.”

Alan and I have rejected the notion of “new normal.” For us, the idea that current pandemic life is anywhere on the spectrum of normal is dismissible. Social distancing, physical distancing, mask wearing, virtual everything, sheltering in place, and not being with extended family is definitely not normal. Though new, we refuse to acknowledge our pandemic lifestyles are normal.

We continue to hold this logic.

I recently watched a webinar featuring bestselling author Patrick Lencioni, and he confirmed much of what I’ve been thinking over the last several months. No one expected us to still be working virtually after eight months. The United States and the world have more remote workers now than ever before. This, of course, creates new challenges for companies, leaders, teams, employees, and families. By now, we recognize the challenges.

But have we recognized the opportunities?

Going off Patrick Lencioni’s Five Behaviors of a Cohesive Team pyramid, the foundation of good teamwork is trust. This concept can easily be generalized into trust being the foundation for all good relationships. We know our direct reports, supervisors, managers, teammates, and co-workers on a professional level. They come to work dressed as professionals, work as professionals, communicate as professionals, and conduct themselves as professionals. In essence, we have built trust with their professional persona.

Virtual working, however, has blurred the line between professionalism and realism. When we’re working from home, we’re not just professionals—we are parents, teachers, brothers, sisters, pet-parents, grandparents, volunteers, chauffeurs, cooks, cleaners, counselors, coaches, and everything in between. We are human beings wearing several different hats all at one time.

Now, we are building trust with our whole human selves, not just our professional selves.

Zoom meetings now include children, significant others, roommates, pets, and various home-life distractions. The scene behind us isn’t a professional looking office or cubical; it’s a messy living room, an unfinished basement, a dirty kitchen, or even the kids’ playroom. It’s our home. In fact, Patrick Lencioni recommends (and we agree) not using Zoom backgrounds. Let your teammates see your working room; be human.

Because of this, we are learning about each other on a whole new level. Susan isn’t just Juan’s administrative assistant. Ali isn’t just the accountant who’s obsessed with Starbucks coffee. Beau isn’t just the person you give your TPS reports to at the end of the month. We aren’t just co-workers; we’re human beings.

When we are able to connect and build trust on personal levels, we realize the people we work with and for are just like us. They leave work and lead lives just like we do. When we recognize this about others, we are more likely to be generous with our empathy, grace, and understanding.

Post-Pandemic = Better Normal

I’ll conclude with a list of possible opportunities to make the pandemic more bearable with hopes they will continue post-pandemic to create a better workplace normal.

  • Trusting co-workers on a personal level
  • Being more empathetic toward others
  • Learning to listen more and talk less
  • Being open to different experiences
  • Incorporating pets, children, and significant others into work life
  • Not using PTO for snow days, sick children, or feeling under the weather (because you can work from home!)
  • Showing more grace to self and others
  • Better organization of meetings
  • More efficient meetings

What else would you add to the list?

Thanks for reading,

DeAnne Negley

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