Return to Work: Trust and Transparency are Keys to Renewal in Reentry

by Mike Hunter

“The new phase that we’re entering is almost like a spaceship coming back to Earth,” Adam says. “We are reentering mid-pandemic. People are wearing masks at work, not able to huddle up physically even if they’re in the same office.”

People accustomed to seeing each other daily for long periods have been apart and changed due to their unique circumstances. How organizations handle reentry and reunion will help determine how resilient they are going forward. An internationally recognized keynote speaker on resilience and reinvention, Adam offers these principles for successful reentry:

1. Create a New Credo. As a 19-year-old lifeguard on Long Island, Adam was part of a team that searched for a swimmer who went missing in the heavy surf. They never found the missing swimmer. Afterwards, the lifeguards adopted a new motto: “No one goes down in our water. You either make the save, or you die trying.” Today, Adam advises companies and teams to adopt a similar credo to strengthen individual and collective resilience: “Got your back.”

2. Embrace Real Feedback. Encourage people to ask and answer questions such as: What’s working for me? What’s not working for me? What could be done differently? “Feedback, including feedback on how teams are being managed, is important on re-entry,” Adam says. “When people are given an open invitation to be transparent, and feel emotionally safe to express themselves freely, that builds trust.”

3. Build Resilience Rituals Into Your Culture. Management should establish support systems to help employees build resilience and integrate those into company culture. This could include encouraging employees to practice mindfulness and take breaks, as well as organized training programs that should be “tangible, meaningful, and show people what the organization stands for,” Adam says.

4. Reevaluate Everything. “There should be no sacred cows,” Adam says. “It may have worked in February and stopped working in March. Every procedure, standard, value, or battle cry of the past should be up for some form of reevaluation.”

5. Acknowledge and Support Employees Suffering Loss and Grief. “There are a lot of people who have been traumatized by this pandemic — who have lost friends and family members,” Adam says. “They will need kindness and patience and understanding as we re-form bonds and redefine what success means and what performance looks like.”

6. Create Ways to Celebrate Together. “When I look back at my time as a lifeguard, even though it was a serious environment, we laughed and joked and smiled,” Adam says. “We kidded each other and challenged each other, and we celebrated together after the day’s job was done. That kind of camaraderie builds serious bonds, and cannot be overlooked.”

Everyone has been changed in some way by the pandemic, and everyone needs resilience to survive and thrive in a state of constant change, Adam says.

“Resilience is a hard skill that will help us to deal individually and collectively with the challenges we face upon reentry as well as those challenges we face down the road.”

Adam is author of the #1 Wall Street Journal, USA Today, Los Angeles Times, and Publisher’s Weekly best-seller, “Pivot: The Art & Science of Reinventing Your Career and Life.” His upcoming books “Embrace The Pivot: The Path to Resilience in Business & Life” and “Resilience Rituals” offer a lifeboat to businesses and individuals seeking to stay dynamic, engaged and relevant in their careers and lives in the face of the pandemic and prolific change.

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