Who Wants a Hug? Navigating the Back-to-Business Transition

"So...how was your pandemic?" I blurted out awkwardly.

Recently I saw a friend I don’t communicate with regularly. As we fumbled awkwardly for conversation starters, I blurted out “So...how was your pandemic?” As a full-on extrovert with pretty decent social skills, it was the best I could come up with. SO much has happened over the past year. A global pandemic, isolation, political division and upheaval, a racial reckoning, in addition to the 'normal' life events. And professionally, many of us have been relegated to den or dining room table and Zoom as ‘the office’.

Where do we even start when we come back together with people outside our immediate circle, especially when we go back to working face-to-face?

As more people are vaccinated, and we understand more about how to contain COVID, business leaders are considering bringing their workforce back to the physical office in larger numbers. Many of us will be returning to in-person work with other humans in the next few months.

It’s no surprise that people will come back with a wide range of expectations and worries - some want to hug everyone in sight and others wish they could work at home in their pj’s forever. We’ve all experienced trauma in the last year, but it may not be the same trauma. Collectively we have experienced major losses and at the same time, it has also been a time of renewal and discovery. The bottom line is that...

...the team that is coming back into the office is not the same team that went home ‘for a few weeks’ in March 2020.

With all of those experiences on our shoulders, how do we set expectations about physical contact and shared spaces?  How do we support our employees to set boundaries while also re-bonding as a team?

 We have a lot to navigate. The new ‘normal’ is still being defined. People who have enjoyed their solitude might feel guilty admitting it to co-workers who have really struggled. People are still fearful - there’s so much we DON’T know and we are all holding our breath to see what happens next.

What we DO know for sure is that business teams need to have new conversations and establish new norms for how they do business. The SAFE Institute can help!

To help with the Big Reset, the team at the SAFE Institute has expanded our successful harassment prevention training to give your team new ‘people’ skills for a successful return to the office. Our expert trainers will conduct a two hour training session customized for your company that will:

  • Explore how to set and receive personal boundaries (verbal and non-verbal)
  • Build a shared understanding of consent - how to clearly ask for and give it
  • Help team members recognize and address the effects of trauma
  • Practice identifying and eliminating microaggressions

The session will also provide time for a facilitated discussion of your own office guidelines and allow employees to share their questions and concerns. Our goal is to give your team a safe and welcoming space to have big picture conversations so that everyone feels supported for a successful return to the office. Register here for a free webinar overview of the training.

For more information and pricing for our full two-hour training, contact us at safeinstitute@safeaustin.org or click on the Contact Us.

Amy Averett

Amy Averett

Amy is the Director of the SAFE Institute, where she shares her experience from both the corporate and nonprofit worlds. When she's not helping businesses create harassment-free spaces, she's watching RuPaul's Drag Race or covering household objects in glitter.