Blog Post

Returning to Offices Will Require New Policies. And More Kindness.

Jarrad Skinner

Learning Experience Designer, Cornerstone OnDemand

As offices begin to reopen around the world, employees are feeling a range of emotions. Some people feel eager to return, while others remain hesitant. Still, others might feel a confusing mix of emotions. All of these different reactions are okay. The truth for everyone, though, is that we won’t be returning to "normal." Work has suddenly changed. It will continue to change. The only certainty is that "normal" is gone.

The office environment of the near future will be different in ways that are both obvious and hidden—and it’s crucial we prepare for both.

Readying for the Obvious Changes at the Office

Some changes to work life are easy to anticipate and prepare for because we’re already living them in our current circumstances. For instance, we won’t be surprised to see signs alerting us about new rules or guidelines to limit the spread of COVID-19—we already see them in public places often. We’ll also likely see fewer people in the office at once. For example, you might find yourself sitting in a designated place and required to wear a mask, trying to convey some camaraderie from a safe distance by raising your eyebrows.

Of course, all these changes and new policies are crucial pieces to keeping employees and their families safe. That doesn’t mean they’ll feel "normal"—likely the opposite, but we’re all sharing in this readjustment.

Readying for the More Subtle Shifts in Ourselves

But there are less obvious shifts at work that we’ll need to prepare for, too. These are the experiences you and your coworkers have had in the past several months since COVID-19 hit.

On a personal level, many of us know friends and family who have lost jobs. We have witnessed loved ones struggling to keep their businesses afloat. Our neighborhoods now feature shuttered businesses. We have family members or close friends who are essential workers constantly at risk when on the job—and at the end of their workday, they take extra precautions not to bring a deadly virus into their home. Some of us may even have lost someone and not been able to be with them in the hospital.

Additionally, in response to systemic racism and recent violence, we've felt outrage and organized or attended protests during the ongoing pandemic.

We’re not returning to business as usual, with masks and more handwashing. It’s not just workplaces, or even the world, that has changed. It’s every one of us.

Professional Skills Training Can Help All of Us

Returning to the office might be a sign that some things are going back, at least somewhat, to how they used to be. However, we won’t be able to feel relief and drop our guard until there’s a medical answer to ending the pandemic. Therefore, we need to return to work with more understanding of each other. We need to support each other with empathy and care. That’s something we try to always keep in mind as we develop and launch new training, but it’s especially important for courses that prepare us to return to the office.

One thing leaders can do right now to help themselves and their people is to provide skills "refresher" courses or training opportunities that put empathy, care and effective communication at the center of how people and teams collaborate in this new reality. Cornerstone offers a comprehensive professional skills library of courses to support this effort, and we invite you to explore and learn more about them. You can also leverage the leadership expertise shared in the ReWork blog for additional support and guidance.

While we’ve been separated, lives have changed and been lost. We’re trying to find our footing in a world that keeps shifting beneath our feet. We need new rules and policies, and we need to be ready for continuous change. But we also need each other. That hasn’t changed.

To learn more about the offerings from Cornerstone OnDemand that can help prepare your employees to return to the office, check out our Content Anytime Professional Skills subscription featuring the "Returning to Work with COVID-19" courses that provide information and guidelines for protecting yourself and others in the workplace. Interested in learning more about Content Anytime Professional Skills and its benefit to your organization? Contact us!

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