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Leadership after COVID: Preparing Your Team to Return to the Office Debrief

23 Jun 2020 6:39 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

How do you effectively lead your team back to the office? Recently the BWF Community was treated to an hour long discussion on work life amidst COVID with guest speakers Deb Kennedy & Sharon Healey.  Here's a recap. 

Looking Back

The last ten weeks have changed and shaped over lives in ways we could never have imagined. We’ve all become multi-tasking change masters. We have learned that adaptability is a skill we all possess, and patience and trust have also become more important as we’ve adapted to working remotely. The standard “workday” seems to never end, as there is no way to step away from “the office” and “head home” as all activities occur within the same place. On top of tackling the challenges of working remotely, we’ve all been dealing with the emotional issues and concerns COVID has generated; Fear to leave the house and afraid we may infect our loved ones. Thankfully, we seem to have successfully flatten the curve and now the focus has shifted to returning to the workplace.

Considerations When Thinking About Re-entry Plans

This topic can be divided into two broad categories, the emotional and personal elements to consider when designing re-entry plans and the regulations and guidelines that need be met and adhered to in order to safely return to the workplace.

"Encourage team members to be open & honest.  It should be the cornerstone of your re-entry plan"
Sharon Healey, Director of Human Resources, Boston Partners Global Investors

Of the two categories, the regulations piece in some respects is easier to manage. The Governor’s office has done a phenomenal job in providing guidance. There were many topics on the call we discussed. Many organizations are considering whether employees will need to wear masks and/or gloves and how to reconfigure workspaces to ensure employees remain six feet apart at all times. Others are contemplating if temperatures should be taken daily and/or other screening methods such as daily health certifications. The configuration of kitchens, restrooms and pantries all need to be thought about when returning employees to the workplace. Some employers are even choosing to close some of these areas for now. Organizations that are housed in office buildings or multitenant spaces have another layer of complexity. It is important to understand what protocols building management are putting in place. Many larger buildings are now limiting the number of people in elevators and lobbies to make sure people are being socially distant. These measures are important and necessary, but they will impact how quickly employees can get into their offices. If possible, allowing those working from home to continue working from home seems to be the safest route at this time. I would also recommend if you are bringing team members back, allow for staggered departure and arrival times which may help to alleviate some concerns relative to public transit commutes.

"Remain hopeful.  It’s a marathon, not a sprint - but it will end!"
Deb Kennedy, Executive & Career Coach, Strategic Directions Consulting

One the emotional side to thinking about our re-entry plans, our largest take away is everyone has different perceived threat levels when it comes to COVID-19 and not all problems can be solved at this time. It is important to acknowledge as leaders, we simply cannot eliminate all fears, but we can and should encourage people to be honest about how they are feeling. And we have to listen. We can then provide clear, transparent communication about what we know and what we don't know. Discussions around the work that has been done to help lower the risks within our workplaces is important. We need to be flexible and understand there are going to employees across your entire organization that have massively different opinions and comfort levels.

Preparing For Re-entry

If possible, try to encourage your teams to take time off to get away from work. Even though most people are not comfortable traveling anywhere right now, burn out is real and everyone has been juggling a lot of varying responsibilities so it will be important to make sure everyone is taking some time for themselves. This will help us to all to come back refreshed. Lastly and most importantly, do not forget to look for something that brings you joy every day.  

Final Thoughts

Our guest speakers offered these key takeaways:

Deb Kennedy

  • Lower your expectations.  They are the food for disappointment
  • Think about how you want to re-enter as a leader
  • Remain hopeful.  It’s a marathon, not a sprint but it will end
  • Look for something that brings you joy daily!  

Here's a TEDTalk Playlist to get your started

Next Stretch New Normal/Work Life slide deck

Sharon Healey

  • Acknowledge the fear that is still out there
  • Encourage team members to be open & honest.  It should be the cornerstone of your re-entry plan
  • Actively listen.  Big difference between passive & active listening
  • Be honest about not having all the answers.  Be clear about what you know & what you don’t know.
  • Organizations work best when they work together to find solutions
  • Take advantage of the opportunities you didn’t have before – perhaps getting home earlier, enjoying more family/personal time


Sharon Healey
Director of Human Resources

Boston Partners Global Investors, Inc.

Sharon is an experienced Human Resources Director with a demonstrated history of working in a variety of industries currently focusing on Asset Management, supporting the Boston Partners team. She is skilled in employee benefits design, recruitment, implementing performance management systems, developing employee welfare programs, identifying training needs, conducting trainings, employee grievance handling, developing and implementing disciplinary policies, terminations, conducting exit interviews and final settlement of employees.  

Debra Kennedy
Executive and Career Coach
Strategic Directions Consulting


Deb is  an executive coach and leadership development specialist working with individuals and teams to develop strategies for successful careers and balanced lives. She brings 25+ years of corporate and higher education leadership experience to help managers and executives optimize their professional presence and skillset to achieve positive and successful results.

Prior to becoming an executive coach, Deb was the Director of Executive Education at Bentley University where she launched the business unit and excelled in designing innovative leadership development and business programs for corporations and small business partners as well as teaching Global Strategy.  Her depth of experience in strategy, finance, marketing and leadership development provides a broad and unique perspective to her coaching practice.  

Debra welcomes the chance to continue the discussion.  Learn more at www.strategicdirectionscoaching.com.


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