UW is embracing hybrid work this fall and many employees are returning to their offices for the first time in 18 months. With this shift comes changes – some exciting, and others challenging. Some changes may even try our patience a bit. While taking a deep breath and pausing before reacting to something unpleasant are great general tips for remaining calm and collected, we’ve tried to anticipate some common return-to-work challenges, and how to approach them with compassion and patience.
The pointers below encourage us to stay open-minded and patient with both ourselves and our teams as we re-adjust to what working at UW looks like.
For teams with new hybrid schedules, this fall may be the first time that not everyone is on-site at the same time. While managers have been communicating expectations and helping teams set hybrid norms, implementing those norms may take some practice.
Not everyone may embrace the change to hybrid work. Teammates may have opposing opinions and preferences about hybrid meetings. For example, it simply may not be feasible for all team members to be on-site for all meetings – even if they want to be. Some may feel completely comfortable participating in routine hybrid meetings while others may prefer to have everyone physically present or find it challenging to follow hybrid conversations.
If you find yourself feeling frustrated about your team’s approach or someone else’s attitude, it can be helpful to consider that everyone has different constraints that determine their hybrid schedules. Remember that being flexible is part of successfully managing change, and resolution does not always mean things will be perfect.
UW Human Resources has listed tips for creating a successful hybrid work environment that may help you talk about your ideas and concerns with your manager, if necessary.
Those who have been working on-site throughout the pandemic will likely notice more traffic, fuller buses and trains and tighter parking. After working fully remotely during the pandemic, employees who are returning to on-site work will have to grapple with commuting again in general, and potential changes in public transit routes.
Re-adjusting to commuting and traffic may take some teammates (or yourself!) extra time to figure out. If you have a teammate who is struggling with this, try and practice patience towards them by asking how their commute is going, and offering an ear to listen. Even teammates who always show up early or on time may be facing strenuous commutes, and they may appreciate having someone acknowledge this significant change in their routine.
UW Transportation Services has summarized expected transit service changes during autumn quarter, with links to local transit agencies; these resources can help offer guidance for anyone who might need it when planning their commute.
COVID-19 health and safety guidelines
Working on-site safely means we must all abide by new health and safety guidelines to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, including masking at work and keeping shared areas clean.
Even the most conscientious person may sometimes step inside before putting on their mask, or hurry to a meeting without wiping down a shared work-surface. If you witness someone doing these things, consider choosing to assume positive intent before assuming otherwise.
Creating new habits and routines can take time, and people will make mistakes as we all adjust. COVID safety guidelines also require that people isolate at home if they have COVID-related symptoms or were in close contact with someone who tested positive. Some colleagues may unexpectedly need to work remotely or take unplanned time off until they can return safely.
As we head into cold and flu season, be patient with last-minute schedule changes. Although it can be tempting to assume “it’s just a cold,” we must all do our part to keep each other safe – and this includes extending grace to teammates who may be mildly sick or symptomatic. It’s also helpful to not be hard on yourself if you are the one needing to adjust your schedule. Remember that you deserve patience, too.
Additionally, colleagues who worked on-site throughout the pandemic may have grown used to having more space and built-in social distancing. The sudden return of more people may cause anxiety for some; don’t forget that everyone will be experiencing these changes differently.
Teammates who are caregivers
Many UW employees care for children, elderly parents or family or loved ones with disabilities. With strict health and safety guidelines in place, some caregivers may need to change their schedules if a loved one is symptomatic, is a close contact to someone who tests positive or their regular care provider is unavailable.
When someone’s schedule changes abruptly to meet their family members’ needs, it may sometimes lead to misunderstandings at work; some employees may even feel opposed to the level of flexibility that UW has encouraged for caregivers throughout the pandemic.
If you feel yourself losing patience over this, try and remember that showing our teammates compassion can be part of being a team-player. If you are a caregiver yourself, UWHR has compiled a list of resources that can support caregivers during COVID-19.
We hope these tips help you navigate the return to on-site work as your most understanding and patient self. Try and remember that not only is everyone experiencing different levels of excitement or worry, we are also experiencing changes from different perspectives: some of us were already on-site and will be adjusting to the return of other people, while others will be adjusting to coming back to campus and everything that entails.
It can be helpful to also remember that many of these changes are in flux and will continue to shift and take new shape as teams see what works best for them. With just a little extra patience, we can all help make each other’s transitions a little bit easier.