Just as we had to adjust to going into isolation at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, now, too, we must readjust as we emerge from the fog of the past several months. Truthfully, I’ve struggled to put into words the way I am feeling. The good news is that my friend, Dr. Helene Lotman, President & CEO, Jewish Federation of Greater Kansas City, said it beautifully. What follows, with her permission, is excerpted from a piece she wrote on the matter…
Who would have believed that re-entry into the workforce would be something we are grappling with today? Fifteen months out of the office, working virtually, and all of our interactions via Zoom became the way of doing business since the onset of the pandemic. Now, we are changing the way we work again – going back to the office in a hybrid model.
What is especially surprising are the challenges and apprehensions many of us are feeling. Although we did talk at length about our feelings prior to the opening, it was still a surprise to me how strange it felt to return to the physical office. It was as if I was starting a new job with a blend of excitement, anticipation, anxiety and trepidation.
I had a restless sleep the night before the opening thinking how things would go, how people would feel, what it would be like. As I got ready for the day, it took me extra time to dress – do my work clothes still fit? What shoes should I wear? Will the office be cold or hot? Everything caused me to pause and take a moment to think.
As I left, my cocker spaniel looked at me with sad and quizzical eyes, not understanding where I was going. After all, I’d been in the house with her for over a year. As I entered the office I was greeted by our receptionist, who let me know there was coffee ready (whew!). The office looked like I left it back in March 2020, with neat piles of papers which I left thinking I’d be back in a week or so. Reading them over, I began to realize how long we were actually gone and how much things have changed while staying the same.
Then, the Tuesday/Thursday crew came in. It was so wonderful to see each other, however, it felt a bit awkward. We each were used to a different working style and space. We each had different comfort levels with interacting. We were used to being home in a familiar space with kids, animals or partners. Some of us spent little time interacting with other people.
When the initial awkwardness passed, it started to feel more familiar, and I think people relaxed a bit. However, I must admit when I went home that first night, I was thoroughly exhausted. The interactions and catch-up were fun, but tiring. I haven’t expended that much energy in a very long time.
I know as the days pass, things will fall into place. We will create new patterns of working together and gain more comfort in working with one another in person.
So, it’s all good. Change is good. We’ve learned a lot about ourselves these last many months. We will move forward with new wisdom we have gained during this trying time.