What is the new normal?

The question every leader is asking these days is: 

What is the new normal?  

Back to the office? Part-time at home? Full time at home? 

Look, initially, It won’t be business as usual. It will be business as unusual. 

We all yearn for physical safety and equally as important we yearn for psychological safety. 

Physical safety means nods not handshakes. It means be careful when you sneeze. It means talking from a distance. 

It means to follow the guidelines even if the guidelines change every so often. 

Psychological safety? 

That’s what I have been asked about over and over by the companies I work with these last strange months. 

Here’s what I think is foundational for any company anywhere on the planet. 

It’s a combination of the important work of Daniel Goleman about emotional intelligence and my work about becoming pattern aware. 

I believe people will initially be more open to new ways of thinking and responding and unless the new ways are underlined, there will be a knee jerk reaction back to the same old patterned ways as before. 

We saw this after 9-11.  

Initially, most were kinder, more attentive, more honest, more willing to help each other. And then? 

Back to the way it was.  

I was in Manhattan not that long after the deadly destruction when the twin towers crumbled to the ground. 

Our taxi driver shared what he saw and after a short time, he had to pull over to wipe his tears. My husband and I sat with him, first in silence, and then talking about his recent memories. 

I gave him my card and said if he wanted, I would do some EMDR sessions (a method used with trauma victims). All he had to do was call and come to our hotel. 

He did. And I had the difficult privilege of helping with his healing journey as a gift for his courage. 

Then over time, I watched so many people become more aggressive, nastier, and less caring. 

Can this time be different? 

There have not been planes crashing into buildings, no visible enemy to “take out.” 

And yet, much the same. 

More of us have been struggling to make sense of the invisible “curse” that has swept the world. The fear and anger are there and the desperation of many who have been attacked by the virus or hit with financial hard times. 

There are conspiracy theories (as there were in 2001), those who want to disregard the toll on lower-income workers, ignore the plight of the homeless, loud demands claiming individual freedom, and those hoping to reap a fortune from the unprecedented times. 

Back to getting back to work and embracing the new normal… 

Here are a few key elements for business leaders to consider as the new normal is set to open: 

  • Purpose: Leaders are here to create a vision with a strong sense of purpose. What and how will the business align around contributing to the personal growth of employees, of helping to make work a setting where stress is addressed before it becomes a chronic health condition, where time on and off is looked at beyond that old 40-60 hour workweek. 
  • Openness: Leaders will engage to help everyone feel free enough to speak up and be part of the solution rather than just stand on the sidelines waiting to be told what to do and how to do it. In essence, to be treated like the adults they are. 
  • Compensation: No hidden agendas so all employees can negotiate a just and fair wage. They are not there to be given “allowances” as if they are children. The fiscal realities are discussed and understood. The theme of “we’re in it together” is one that leaders commit to and speak about with integrity. 
  • Excellence: The vision is one where the need is NOT to be the best (an immature and impossible goal), rather it is to hold the standards high and everyone has the opportunity to achieve and grow to their highest ability. 

This push into the future has lots of challenges… 

However, the opportunity is for a more positive and healthy work environment where trillions of dollars don’t have to go down the drain due to excessive stress and chronic health conditions that could be averted. 

This requires a new way of thinking about organizational culture, not just having a “tune-up” with an occasional “feel good” meeting.  

There are those who are waiting in the wings for their chance at retrenchment, for back to basics. They will lobby for “the good old days.” 

I believe the world of work is poised to lead positive change, and with enough determination and willingness to keep the vision of a more connected, more caring world front and center, progress is in the air. 

The theme of my company and many organizations we work with is: 

 “We are all connected, and no one wins unless we all do” 

Let’s make business as unusual the new normal. 

Sylvia Lafair

Creative Energy Options