Many companies are trying to catch up after the sudden changes brought about by Covid-19. How, and whether to return to the workplace is a live issue for many people. But whatever new ways of working emerge, getting there involves conversations. GameShift has developed an offer that supports this in a straightforward and honest way. It’s called Reflect, Reconnect, Reset.
At its heart are personal stories. In this blog GameShift partner Julie Drybrough shares a couple of hers.
My friend sits, sweltering in her home office in the south of England, whilst I can hear the rain on my Edinburgh windowpane and am debating whether a cardigan might be necessary. She hasn’t slept well for a few nights due to the relentless heat and admits to feeling scratchy and irritable. I haven’t seen blue sky in two days and can barely remember what sunshine feels like, so we agree our meet up will be more of a cup of tea and a catch up than anything too serious.
She has come off the third work video call of the day: “If one more person says ‘New Normal’, I’m going to scream”. I say the term ‘New Normal’ isn’t driving me to verbal violence, it’s more I feel it’s…well…just a bit rubbish. A bit of a myth. A strangely smooth misnomer, a baffling and inaccurate way to describe the “other side” of lockdown… It’s kind of meaningless as a term, because it’s just… empty. Maybe that’s what’s so annoying about it. It undermines the vastly different experiences people have had and the vastly different ways we feel about the world after months of strangeness. The term rushes to establish order – it’s OK. This is normal now – when there is still so much in flux. Maybe that’s why it irks us. It’s meaningless.
Right now, perhaps we need things that make sense and have some truth or heft: words with shared meaning, maps of new territories, plans that allow for multiple variations. Perhaps that’s what is making us roll our eyes or call BS bingo when someone tries to catch-all with a term like ‘New Normal’…We might have had enough of vagueness and uncertainty, but we might also have a need to acknowledge that these are precisely what we are working with. Perhaps to pretend a new world order has been established and is ‘normal’ feels like folly.
We share stories from our worlds. She is working with furloughed staff returning to work and non-furloughed staff who never left work but couldn’t physically be in the office. I ask which group is coping better. She sighs and says she honestly can’t tell right now. Everyone is in such different places. There has been a survey – some sort of wellbeing/ checking who might like to return to the office questionnaire thing – the themes are tenuous and sometimes contradictory. Some of the team are more than happy in their domestic situations, others are crying out for in-person contact. Those who remain un-furloughed are privately expressing some resentment and frustration at keeping things going; others are glad they were occupied productively during lockdown. Those who were furloughed seem to either have had a great time, or an awful one, as far as she can tell. There’s a looming prospect of restructuring, which everyone kind of expects, but it is deeply unsettling – and for most there is a worry about security – ‘will I be made redundant….?’.
“So… Everything then?” I say.
“Yes. We are dealing with Everything”.
We sit quietly with the weight of that for a few seconds.
My response to this stuff, to ‘dealing with Everything’, is always this: it needs to be talked about, attended to, slowly and with consideration. You can’t deal with ‘Everything’ quickly, that’s not how our brains and bodies operate. We have to break things down and work with the parts in order to support the whole. That’s how we work, as humans, inconvenient as that may be when we are rushing to get things fixed and certain.
Of course, there are other ways to deal with Everything, you can push ‘Everything’ through, get ‘Everything’ sorted. In that scenario, you may well gleefully declare you have established the New Normal and all is well. Let’s face it, in the face of bringing people back together, rapidity might be valued over faffing about.
However, if I may evoke Newton’s third law, let’s be clear that for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. If we force something (staff back to work before they are ready, or collaborating before we have re-connected with each other) the resulting resistance will be equally formidable. So the notion of having ‘Everything’ sorted, more often than not gets undone – and quickly if you were really rapid about sorting it in the first place.
We have been talking about how to respond to the New Normal mythology in the Gameshift community for a while now. As a community of practitioners, we come from different backgrounds, with different specialist areas which allow us to see the world though some different lenses. Over lockdown we have met weekly and talked about how we can support ourselves and our clients through the pandemic and all the transitional challenges it has posed. We have gathered a range of anecdotes from clients about their experiences, fears and discoveries, but mostly the theme seemed to be ‘we are dealing with Everything’ – from bringing people back to work to letting people go and so much more.
Both employers and employees are working with the deeply personal (mental health issues, grief, domestic abuse) to work place practicalities (safe set ups for staff to work in, flexible working patterns, working from home) to dealing with job insecurity driven by loss of revenue and significant cost pressures and no level of certainty about when things will stabilise.
For the GameShift team, the answer lies in creating practical safe spaces for staff to reflect together on their experiences and to think positively about the future. Taking some time to understand how willing or able people are to re-join the workplace, emotionally, psychologically, socially and/or physically seems to make sense right now.
At GameShift we have developed an offering for clients to provide the opportunity to Reflect, Reconnect, Reset in a number of different ways. These range from 1 to 1 conversations to group activities, both on-line and face to face. Click here to find out more
Julie Drybrough , GameShift Partner