The Great Re-integration

Geraldine Gallacher explores what this next chapter may bring and some ideas to ease the Great Re-integration back to work.

On the 4th of July here, in the UK, the tentative re-opening of our shops, bars and restaurants post Covid-19 Lockdown gave a whole new meaning to Independence Day. Throughout the world we are all at different phases of the Great Re-integration back to work.  It will be fascinating to look back in the future to see if this period becomes a significant landmark and connotes a time of significant change. Or if all our hopes of a Damascene conversion to a kinder, more sustainable life will amount to nothing.

re-integrating back to work

You can check out here my earlier post where I extolled the possibilities of a post lockdown world.

There can be no doubt that going through a global pandemic, and the vastly different experiences we have all had during this lockdown period, will have left their mark. For some it’s been a disaster: teenagers at key exam stages, young people having their social lives draconianly curtailed, parents having to juggle work and childcare with home education thrown into the mix, business owners who have watched their savings disappear as they shore up failing enterprises.  For others it’s been a much more positive experience. A chance to spend more time with the family; a resetting of priorities, a realisation of the efficiency of home working, a temporary respite from commuting, a chance to do more exercise and eat more healthily.

These different experiences will dramatically alter our response to the approaching Great Re-integration. For my part I fall into the latter category.  Yes, I’m one of those annoying baby boomers who has a garden and grown up children who can not only sort out the IT but can even turn their hand to producing a meal or two.  But seeing my colleagues on Zoom has often revealed, quite starkly, that my experience in lockdown is not the same as many of theirs.  These differences have made it hard to decide how to handle the next phase of going back to work.

“We’re experimenting with ‘Stand Ups’ ‘Huddles” and “Spark Meetings’. All different forms of agile working more usually associated with Silicon Valley.” 

To figure out a way forward we’ve taken a couple of steps that I would recommend. A few weeks ago we sent out a small survey which revealed that we all have different appetites for returning to the office. Safety of public transport is seen to be critical. If you can’t commute to work safely that’s a red line for most.  The survey also showed something of an age-related divide with the digital immigrants (that’s the oldies) really embracing the tech and for some getting used to trusting people to do the work without having to be in the office.  It’s been quite liberating. We’re experimenting with “Stand ups” “Huddles” and “Spark meetings”.  All different forms of agile working more usually associated with Silicon Valley.

Whereas, the digital natives, brought up on screens and social media are missing the office.  They don’t have the same home working facilities as Baby Boomers and really miss the social side of work. IRL appears to have more appeal than WFH just now for Generation Y. Another group that are looking forward to a return to the office are, paradoxically perhaps given their parental responsibilities, the parents of young children. More than anything they just want the schools to open and so whether it’s in the office or at home they are desperate for some “me time” and work provides a welcome break from the “always on” nature of parenting.

It’s very apparent from our mini survey that there can’t be one rule for all.  We have all learned that a lot can be done remotely and so surely this will usher in a new culture of flexible working for all?  Companies that herd staff back into the office and turn their backs on new ways of working will suffer with talent retention issues.  It’s no longer just Generation Y workers and parents that want flexibility. We all want it now.

“…what will take its place is more autonomy for teams to work out their rotas and schedules in bubbles. Each team bubble will have to figure out what’s going to work for them in the weeks ahead.” 

If there’s no diktat about working from home then what will take its place is more autonomy for teams to work out their rotas and schedules in bubbles.  Each team bubble will have to figure out what’s going to work for them in the weeks ahead and be prepared for this to be an ever changing dynamic. Team members will need to feel the psychological safety that allows honest conversations about capacity and availability to happen.

This takes me to a second recommendation.  Again something we tried out recently. We ran a Team Boost session or you could call it a Team Reset session on Zoom. (It can work on other platforms like Teams but we rather like the facility to have video in the break out rooms). We started by having everyone complete a journey map of their time in lockdown as pre-work. In pairs they then had the chance to share their learns, mishaps and successes from the past 3 months. We followed this up with a Team session where we used the whiteboard to all contribute to an exercise where we completed the grid below.


Capturing our Learns - ECC

Another version of this exercise is one described by ECC coach Kate Kardooni in her article about gleaning the best from the lockdown experience.

It was a real morale booster to connect in this way and I can see lots of ways to build on this initial Team Boost session.  For instance, I’m looking forward to using Myers Briggs with a client’s board team to analyse their different experiences with reference to their different personality types.  The experience of entering a Zoom room has a particular poignancy when you are effectively entering someone else’s home.  It’s strangely intimate despite being virtual and I believe can help build the psychologically safe space necessary to ensure we can navigate the uncertain times ahead of us.


So, we’ve been embracing Social Bubbles of late and now is the time to start working on our Team Bubbles.


Geraldine Gallacher- CEO & Founder of the Executive Coaching Consultancy



Geraldine Gallacher is founder and CEO of The Executive Coaching Consultancy 


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