Considering myself quite courageous, I ventured out a couple of times since we were able to dine in at restaurants and cafés and I found the experiences really interesting. It was certainly a lesson on the push to adapt and the pull of remaining the same and where the comfort zone remains.
As a self-confessed germophobe (just ask any of my friends) I was certainly really curious as to how the café’s and restaurants would adapt to the new requirements of social distancing and hygiene requirements. I watched with interest when people were seated, when tables were cleared and when patrons left the restaurant.
It was week one and early days of the new requirements and most of the places ticked off things like the social distancing, hygiene and obtaining the contact details of the patrons. The push towards the new was starting. What I noticed missing were the little things that weren’t part of the routines pre-pandemic. Like wiping down chairs, thoroughly cleaning tables rather than a quick wipe for example. The pull towards the old routine was obvious too with water glasses placed on tables face down after the table had been given a very quick wipe over after patrons left.
Granted I was looking for these things. Would others notice, perhaps not? But that’s not really the point. And of course I am only speaking of my experiences. The point is that business need to push hard to adapt to a higher standard of proving a safe place for the health and well-being of all concerned.
This really got me thinking about the broader business context as we slowly transition back to the workplace. Organisations are scrambling to get policies in place outlining the expectations of the employees and the organisation and how they will interact when returning to a very different office environment. Self-hygiene, social distancing, meeting capacities, and lift capacities…everything outlined and specific, as it should be. The more clarity that can be provided the better. Then of course people need to be accountable.
However, will the pull towards old routines be too great? Will we fall back into old habits that could hinder a safe working environment and also impact negatively on the mental health of employees? Only time will tell but one thing I know for sure is, for these new ways of working and interacting to be successful, they need to be led and led well from the top. If we want to have any chance of this being successful and for workplaces to avoid a situation it doesn’t want to deal with leaders must step up and lead from the front. We must inspect what we expect and role model the same. Only then will you have any sort of contagion for new routines and for the push of the new to become the comfort zone of the future.