I am grateful to be fully vaccinated and to have recently traveled to visit my youngest daughter, Kaitlin, who is studying marine biology at Eckerd College in Saint Petersburg, Florida. Luckily, my other daughter Kira was off for spring break, so we were able to have a long-awaited family vacation. I had an extra appreciation of the ocean waves this visit. As they crashed on the beautiful white sand, it reminded me of the daily challenges all of us have faced during this pandemic. Like the ocean, we keep moving forward the best we can.
Although progress is being made in managing the effects of the pandemic, there are still many questions. Some of the questions and comments I have heard from my clients include: “Will we go back to the office and when?” “Does my office still exist?” “What does the hybrid version of back-to-work look like?” “I am feeling isolated and really missing seeing my colleagues face-to-face.”
William Bridges, through his books Managing Transitions and The Way of Transition, gave us a vocabulary for understanding and talking about change and transition that was entirely absent before. He helped us understand how people actually experience change and what they need to get through it.
The book Managing Transitions proposed that individuals experience change in three stages: first as an ending, followed by a period of confusion and distress, followed by a new beginning. He noted that because Western culture offers few rituals to mark the passage through these stages, people often try to skip from the first stage directly to the last. Instead, he asked individuals to spend time in what he called “the neutral zone” as a way of psychologically accommodating the space.
What stage do you think you are in right now? Remind yourself that every transition has a chaotic stage you need to go through before you can move to new beginnings and this one will take resilience and patience. It is going to take organizations more time than expected to roll out a safe plan for returning to the office. Begin to think about what you would like your schedule to look like when you do go back to an office environment and what would work best for you to add the impact and influence that is needed for your position.
Personally, although I facilitated William Bridges’ Transition Management Training during major corporate transitions throughout Boston, I was not prepared for many of my emotions during the pandemic. With the vaccine, I feel I am getting into the right mindset to enter the new beginnings phase but keeping in mind that it will take time.
Next month, I will share strategies to keep you thriving during this transition.
Please email me at [email protected] about what strategies have helped you navigate this transition.