Dr. Aimee Harris-Newon is an integrative and interventional psychologist, coach, radio host, and founder of a wellness center in Chicago.
We’ve emerged from this tunnel of darkness wiser about ordinary, everyday life habits, but we’ve also distanced ourselves from others. This distancing is both physical and emotional. One unfortunate consequence of the pandemic is the division in beliefs. First, there was the controversy over wearing masks, with some people adamantly resisting. And more recently, the vaccine has caused its fair share of conflict, specifically the tension between anti-vaxxers and those vaccinated.
Now that many places of business are opening back up, employers are charged with creating a positive and safe workplace atmosphere that bridges the emotional divide and eases tension over differing beliefs. Here are a couple of pointers to consider when approaching this task.
Working With Anti-Vaxxers And Not Shaming Them
Deciding not to be vaccinated is a personal choice. While proponents of the vaccine believe those who shun it are selfish and possibly a danger to society, they might not know the emotional reasons behind the decision. They aren’t approaching the conflict from the same place; therefore, they shouldn’t allow their personal beliefs to flow into the workplace. One of the biggest hurdles to overcome when everyone is back together in the office is keeping an open mind concerning each other’s personal decisions about the vaccine. Mostly, co-workers will need to be professional and control their emotions for a smooth transition and a positive work environment. If you’re in a situation with a co-worker who hasn’t been vaccinated and you don’t feel comfortable being with them, set your own boundaries but don’t shame them, which could have the opposite effect you want.
(Re)Creating More Caring Relationships With Coworkers
The pandemic created an unimaginable level of isolation and loneliness for many people. Resuming old habits in the workplace will be difficult for many. Out of a study of 1,000 Americans, LiveCareer found that approximately 40% feel safer working from home. Knowing what’s “okay” and what’s not “okay” will be subjective since some co-workers might welcome a hug or handshake and others will shy away. The new protocol for co-worker relationships will be to respect other people’s boundaries and not expect them to have the same beliefs and fears as you. Navigating these rough waters will be awkward at first. However, once the tone of respect is established, everyone can feel comfortable and safe in the workplace.
Reacting Reasonably To Allergies Or Illnesses With Covid-19-Like Symptoms
In our post-pandemic world, I’ve noticed that every time someone coughs in public, looks get thrown their way like daggers. Understanding that there are other illnesses with Covid-19-like symptoms and reacting to them appropriately will be imperative when you return to the workplace. The person with seasonal allergies who sneezes and coughs a lot will also need to take measures to try and prevent overactive symptoms as a courtesy. However, in my opinion, uncontrollable symptoms of non-Covid-19 illnesses shouldn’t ostracize a person. Understand that not all Covid-19-like symptoms are connected to Covid-19 and be understanding toward the people dealing with these symptoms.
Managerial Understanding Of Pandemic PTSD
For most people, Covid-19 has left a nasty scar, and for some, the fears run far deeper. And, it’s a very real thing: pandemic PTSD. Some people will harbor uncontrollable anxiety that sometimes affects their daily functioning. Managers and other team leaders will need to be understanding and flexible to accommodate these emotions. Leaders will also need to address and validate these fears to help team members feel welcome. We’ve all had different experiences over the past year and a half in dealing with the pandemic. Going back to work might be a real source of fear and anxiety for some. Showing compassion and understanding can help people handle their concerns and help promote positive mental health for all employees.
Adjusting to the post-pandemic way of life will be essential for resuming healthy and positive relationships with colleagues. We’re reaching an exciting time with people going back to the workplace. However, understanding that this process requires some special measures and extra effort is imperative for a smooth transition. The year 2020 and all of its challenges might be behind us, but its effects will linger far longer.