Written by Sharri Margraves, HR Associate Director for Organization and Professional Development
In March 2020, we embarked on an incredible journey. Do you remember the shock when, seemingly overnight, everything changed at work and in our community? Thinking it would only be a couple of weeks, then two months, then six, and so on as reality set in? I imagine that few, if any, of us would have ever expected a collective and comprehensive change in our lives quite like this.
As we turn our thoughts to creating the “next normal,” many will experience a new set of emotions and challenges. We might keep wishing for things to go “back to normal,” even when we intellectually know it’s not possible. MSU will remain a residential university and being present is essential for the experience.
So, how do we prepare for an uncertain future as we begin to bring the campus back to a fuller vibrancy? Consider the following:
Start with being self-reflective
- Honor that this experience has been hard for everyone, although not always in the same ways. Remember that we have our shared experience, but we did not share the same experience.
- Appreciate those who continued to report in-person throughout the past year and those who continued to work remotely. It took everyone to get us through.
- Make a list of your and your team’s accomplishments. It’s beneficial to reflect on the positive. Did you learn new skills? Create new processes?
- Start thinking about how you might approach work differently.
- Be grateful.
Approach the next set of changes with thoughtfulness and intentionality, considering how they will impact individuals and teams. Luckily, upcoming transitions will likely be gradual as opposed to the abruptness of going to “pandemic rules” last year. In all cases, consider how change will affect both employees and operations.
- Prepare for change by engaging in discussions around work expectations, challenges, and changes in teams (e.g., what to expect regarding breaks, lunch, and dress code).
- Allow ample time for employees to adjust to returning to campus as this is another major change. Those who have been on-site will also experience this change. Many employees will have new arrangements to make, and a lack of consideration for their needs will lead to disengagement.
- Be prepared to utilize resources such as the MSU Employee Assistance Program, Guide to Remote Access, and others. Anticipate and address conflict. This adjustment will include following the MSU Community Compact, differences of opinion regarding vaccinations, and how employees will feel if co-workers choose not to disclose or get a COVID-19 vaccination, to name only a few.
- Continue to be inclusive. Announcements, meetings, and other common workplace activities can impact teams, particularly with a mix of on-premise and remote employees. No one wants to feel excluded or that they missed something.
Be mindful of transitions
As we move forward, it’s critical to not just consider changes but also transitions. Consider the following quote from William Bridges:
“It isn’t the changes that do you in, it’s the transitions. Change is not the same as transition. Change is situational: the new site, the new boss, the new team roles, the new policy. Transition is the psychological process people go through to come to terms with the new situation. Change is external, transition is internal.”
Anticipate that your team may need support engaging with the transitions of our “next normal.” Take advantage of the resources provided by MSU and understand that this is an expected part of the process. Prepare yourself and your team for the changes and transitions ahead, and you can use 2020 as a springboard to the next, better normal.
Bridges, W. (2017). Managing transitions: making the most of change. Da Capo.