For all of us who have been working-from-home (WFH) for the last few months, or have been furloughed, or working part time, due to the COVID crisis, phasing back into work is now at hand!  

What kind of emotions does this bring up for us?  

Maybe excitement, relief and eagerness for those of us who have been “home-schooling” school-aged children or have been sharing tight home quarters with a spouse who has also been working from home.  

Or on the other hand maybe we are feeling nervousness, fear or even dread if we have been able to use this time at home for self-care, home projects, spending time with loved-ones, and exercising more, and now returning to work feels like taking all these good things away.  

Or maybe we are feeling angry and resentful if our employer has been less-than-stellar during the COVID crisis.  Maybe we watched co-workers get fired or furloughed while the boss maintained a full salary.  Maybe we are just realizing right now that we really didn’t like aspects of our jobs or our employers all that much from the start and taking a pause allowed us to fully realize that. 

With all these diverse and valid reactions, this is a tricky time for employers.  What is the employer’s role in helping employees transition back?  

We have all gone through a big “experience” that made us feel strong emotions about our jobs and our workplace, and our employers.  It has been a time of clarity, suffering, and reckoning. 

While employers have traditionally not encouraged the expression of thoughts and feelings in the workplace, there may be no other choice at this point.  Employees need to speak about their experiences, they need to feel heard and understood, and they need to hear from one another.  

But, opening up this “can-of-worms” is not something that employers have traditionally done.  Most supervisors are not accustomed to being the role of facilitating their employees’ emotional processes.  

Regardless, this sharing and expression will happen because this disruption of the workplace has been a big experience for all of us.  We all want to talk about it, to tell stories, to process our new realizations, to hear from others, and to be part of the dialogue that creates a *New* workplace. 

It’s a great time to enlist the support of Employee Assistance professionals and workplace consultants. It’s a great time to plan employee retreats and other safe spaces to debrief and discuss.  Now is the time to create safe and purposeful spaces for employees and leaders to talk about what happened, what they feel about it, and what the *New* workplace will look like moving forward.