Are You Accounting for Emotional Management Within Your COVID Re-Entry Plans?
On May 28th of this year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced an update to their mask guidelines, advising vaccinated individuals that mask wearing was no longer a necessity. Following this announcement, individuals began questioning both the intent and the accuracy of such a proclamation. Questions, such as “what does this mean to me?” and “what do I do in public?” were some of the thoughts circling our brains while also wondering if the potential beginning of the end was near.
Planning for the End from the Start
Throughout the last 16 or so months, we have grown and evolved by staying still. This phenomenon of maturing as a human race while drastically reducing our physical contact, movement, and sense of community is quite astonishing. This, of course, was brought to us by a deadly global pandemic with a high rate of transmission and higher fatality rates than previous flu-like illnesses.
So, in March of 2020, while most of us were working hard at getting our co-workers to be able to operate from home, many of us also began planning for re-entry. I was one of those people.
At the time, I couldn’t get the thought out of my head of “do not deploy an asset, without a plan to bring it back!” This is a view that had been drilled into me throughout my career of responding to incidents and conducting simulations for high-hazard, high-potential events.
The good news is that, if you’re anything like me and you began planning for re-entry while you were managing the details of working remotely, then chances are that your re-entry plans from 16 months ago are solid! There is, however, one critical component that may be missing, and that is Emotional Management.
Building Emotional Management into your COVID Re-Entry Plans
When planning for things like re-entry, the thought process tends to lean heavily on the operational, tactical, and administrative aspects of business, while neglecting the very real, very human, emotional toll that has come with COVID-19. Meanwhile, this toll is a very important part of your business continuity and recovery.
Emotional Management is just like Financial, Risk, or any other type of Management that we call Business as Usual (BAU); the difference here is that the variables are the individuals and the shared emotions of our team members.
What Do I Mean by “Emotional Management”?
The Emotional Management that I’m focusing on here is the anxiety and stress that some team members will experience when returning to the office.
There is no cookie-cutter way to deal with this. These emotions can range from the “Yes, I am so glad to be out of my living room!” to “Do I wear a mask?” “Is that person vaccinated?” “Do I shake hands?” “Why am I even here?”
Through the range of these emotions lies different risks that you can mitigate by incorporate Emotional Management into your re-entry planning and communications.
How To Pave your Re-Entry Path with Emotional Intelligence
First, a path must be chosen regarding your organization’s stance on re-entry. While there is no right or wrong answer here, copying your neighbor’s strategy may not be the best-suited solution for your organization and the specific needs of your team members.
While designing your strategic re-entry plans, following are four critical components to evaluate and incorporate:
- Health & Safety Requirements
- Vaccination Requirements & Tracking
- Tone and Forms of Communication
- Leadership’s Role
Let’s break each of these down individually.
Health & Safety Requirements will differ by County, City, State, Country, etc. If your organization is global, the organization must decide if requirements will vary based on geography or if the entire organization will adhere to the most stringent standard.
My recommendation here is to approach each location on an individual basis while at the same time, having general requirements across the organization if local restrictions are non-existent.
For example, if your company decides that masks are necessary when 6ft of social distancing cannot be attained, this would be the “mask policy” unless a specific location mandates 100% mask-wearing when indoors.
Vaccination Requirements & Tracking is another hot topic. For example, some organizations track fully vaccinated employees and limit re-entry to these team members. If this is the route you’ve chosen, then it’s important to ensure that all privacy requirements are being met and that there is no correlation between those not in the office and those not vaccinated. This can be achieved by giving employees the option to return to the office or continue remotely.
For those who decide to return, then the vaccinated component comes in. The main thing to avoid here is implementing an honor system for those vaccinated. If you choose to track vaccinations, do the work and ensure that you have complete, accurate, and validated data.
Your Tone and Forms of Communication should be open, constant, and meet the ways in which people within your organization regularly communicate. Do not introduce a new method of communication that goes outside of standard protocols.
Within these communications, focus on a tone that encourages education and choice.
Leadership’s Role is to be a change agent and to help drive the chosen strategy. The critical leadership component at all levels is to translate the “Corporate Strategy” to the “Team Strategy” and connect the dots for your teams.
How Much Flexibility vs. Rigidity Should Be a Part of Your Plan?
One of the main concerns for Leadership is balancing the right amount of flexibility and rigidity within the plans and structures for re-entry. Both can exist within the same reality, and in fact, your re-entry plans should have both components built in.
The idea here is to have Rigidity in your stance while having Flexibility in choice.
Your stances are your re-entry core values, and as such, should not be swayed by other’s opinions. At the same time, this stance must also have flexibility built in to allow for choice. The ability to choose will not only impact the success of your chosen re-entry strategy, but it will also profoundly impact your overall culture.
Giving employees a choice on vaccination, office return, schedules, and social interactions will allow everyone to either dip their toe in the re-entry pool or go for the all-famous “Triple Lindy.”
Your Crisis Ready Re-Entry
Accounting for Emotion is an essential component within all areas of your Crisis Ready Program, Initiatives, and Culture. It’s also one of the most neglected and overlooked aspects of crisis and issue management, at what amounts to be a very high cost.
Building Emotional Management and Emotional Intelligence into your COVID Re-Entry plans is an important component to your success moving forward, and the above tips and recommendations will help you meet the needs of your teams. If at any point you have any questions, the Crisis Ready Family is here to support you, so feel free to reach out.