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Déjà Leonard is a copywriter and freelance journalist based in Calgary.

So, you think you know your co-workers? We often spend more of our waking hours with our colleagues than we do our families – but the last two years have changed a lot about who we are, sometimes at a fundamental level.

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While we are all sharing an experience to a certain degree, “The experience of a middle-class white man is going to be different from what a Black woman has experienced over the past year and a half,” Kathryn Meisner, a career and salary negotiation coach based in Toronto says.

Meisner says that child care challenges, health and mental health issues, social unrest and more are affecting the way people will show up when they head back into the office.

“I think it’s important for people, especially in positions of power – like managers or senior people – to look at what employees may be facing that might make it difficult for them to come back to work and do their best in their job, but also pursue career growth,” she says.

On an interpersonal level, your relationships with your peers could take some renegotiation as well.

“Expect messiness,” Ms. Meisner says. “And get skilled at asking questions that get to the root of what you’re asking.”

So, instead of the typical, ‘How are you?’ maybe it’s, ‘How can I support you today?’ or ‘How have you been holding up during this stressful time?’

And instead of expecting people to follow the same patterns or routines as they did before – going out for after-work drinks or working late to finish projects, for example – be open to the idea that their priorities may have changed.

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There will be plenty of unknowns going back into the office, but Ms. Meisner shares some keys ways you can prepare.

  1. Reconnect beforehand. Avoid the awkward assumptions by messaging your peers before heading back into the office. This way you can see how they are feeling about it and see if, for instance, they still want to go out to happy hour as you did before.
  2. Set your own boundaries. You’ll adapt to others as they adapt to you. Before you go back to the office, think about what priorities may have changed for you and how that could affect your relationships or the way you work. Also, acknowledge any support you might need by way of therapy or other resources.
  3. Manage your expectations. By leading with empathy we can get a better idea of what everyone has gone through, based on what they’re comfortable sharing. Give yourself and others grace as we get back into a groove, or create a new one.

It can be helpful to remember that we all may be struggling in our own ways. Reintroducing ourselves may just be the next big hurdle we tackle as a collective.

What I’m reading around the web

  • There’s nothing like the portability of a laptop, but when it comes to productivity, using an extra monitor wins out. Dive into the data in this recent article from TechRadar to see how the right screen (and a few other variables) can save you time and boost comfort.
  • Employees are on the lookout for new opportunities and employers know it. And negotiating this with your current employer can be a hit or miss. Keep reading to see why experts say you should negotiate with your current boss if “the outside offer is about 80 per cent of the way to your dream job.”
  • Companies are taking another look at their return to office plans, with many postponing because of the COVID-19 Delta variant. Here’s how it’s affecting what the New York Times considers a “silent majority” that is eager to return (at least part-time) and how the delay is perpetuating isolation and burnout.
  • Burnout and mental health have been at the forefront of many career conversations. Take a look at this round-up of free or low-cost mental health resources from Randstad.
  • Thinking of making a career change? Whether you’re staying in the same industry or doing something completely different, the Balance Careers has created a guide to help you create a plan and make the transition as smooth and fruitful as possible.

More opinion from Globe Careers

So you want to become a politician? Many of the questions we would ask a job candidate are the same ones you may want to ask the candidate who appears at your door over the next several weeks, writes columnist Eileen Dooley.

Respecting vacations should be serious business if you want to retain your employees Ironically, how your company manages time away from work reveals just how good you are at building an invested, integrated culture, writes Rakuten CEO Michael Tamblyn.

Microaggressions in the workplace cause more than bruised feelings. They also create business risks In the post-#MeToo era, these routine acts of exclusion, which are too often dismissed by managers, are creating legal, regulatory and reputational risks for companies, writes Globe columnist and business reporter Rita Trichur.

More from the section

Job applicants get creative when sussing out a company’s parental leave policies For job applicants exploring the market, determining a company’s parental leave policies and navigating ‘maternity discrimination’ is a difficult task

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How will annual-leave rules affect my retirement plans? In the weekly 9-5 column, a reader asks about his banked leave days.

The idea of optimizing productivity is a ‘trap’ that we’re better off without If you’re smart, you’ll admit defeat – which can be liberating.


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Inspired by the Power Gap investigation, the Globe Women’s Collective is shining a spotlight on the experiences of women in workplaces across Canada. As the data shows, women continue to be outnumbered, outranked and out-earned by men. This initiative is designed to set female employees up for success by providing insights, knowledge and expertise to move the needle and create the changes necessary to close these gaps. You can read all the stories in the hub here, and subscribe to the new Women and Work newsletter here.


Leadership Lab is a series where executives, experts and writers share their views and advice about the world of work. You can find all Leadership Lab stories at tgam.ca/leadershiplab and guidelines for how to contribute to the column here.

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