Hi Svetlana,

As the companies start planning the return to a “new normal”, the are a lot of questions on leadership minds:

  • "How to avoid burnout of my team?"
  • "How to keep any productivity gains achieved during the pandemics and alleviate the inefficiencies?"
  • "What should the “new normal” look like? How flexible should be the schedule and arrangements?"
  • Deloitte reports that 90% of CEOs put the mental health of employees as one of the top items.

One CEO's experience during the pandemic provides a lot of practical tips and answers many of these questions.

The key is in the level of awareness and intentionality of his actions rooted in a) clarity of business goals and b) true care for his people.

This drastically affected both his experience and results. 

With his permission, I am sharing some of the nuggets.

With challenges or any upcoming strategic changes, effective communication upfront is the key. Be intellectually honest with your team and communicate with empathy and compassion. It takes up the energy to do this, but it is worth it. You earn the credibility that will allow you to deal with any tough stuff that will come up.

When planning the return back-to-office, consider the effect of your decisions on the team as a whole to avoid disruption of the team dynamics by increasing anxiety about comparative performance, facetime, etc.

For instance, this company was planning to reopen an office and make attendance optional. Sounds like a reasonable plan!

And then they thought about how fragmented and circumstantial the situation was. Some people live in areas where schools are open, other folks have kids at home or other caregiver responsibilities. One has a short drive or even walk to the office, another has to take multiple means of transportation to get there. And what about single parents among your employees? They had it hard before but now are facing unprecedented challenges. 

As a result, this company decided not to open the office for the time being. They are getting the job done remotely just fine, why risk it!

As you are opening offices and bringing people back, some flexibility of the work arrangement is likely to continue. It’s important to manage the situations intentionally and communicate effectively to 1) capture the efficiencies and productivity gains and  2) avoid creating a rift in the team or make employees with different arrangements feel judged or their career affected.

Be aware of the implicit message of your actions.
As a person in a position of authority, you can either increase stress or help people manage it and prioritize their work effectively.

Imagine that the office is open and it is optional for employees to come depending on their circumstances and health concerns. And the CEO (or the team head) is showing up 5 days a week (because he lives close and has support at home). Your employees would have an implicit pressure to show up at work too (even if their personal situation is different). 

I am not saying that you must also stay home, but be aware of the effects of your actions and consider whether any additional communication or situation management is necessary. 

Here’s another example. An employee receives an email from the CEO or a team-head at 9 pm. The subject says “this is not urgent, you can get it to me tomorrow”. Guess what happens? Yup, the employee gets to it right away. Instead, wait for the next day to send it. Now, this is an amazing awareness and true care for your employees

Manage the remote interactions intentionally.
The remote environment is likely to continue for a few months and can become a new norm. Keeping human connection is essential for maintaining the culture of your team, their efficiency, ability to problem-solve, and it requires more intentionality and planning.

One strategy is to mimic the in-person interactions. When you have Zoom calls, invite everyone to join earlier (or instruct the senior team to join later) to give people an opportunity to mingle, chat and catch up, like they would do if they were in person. Your single employees, who don’t get to see too many faces these days, would appreciate it, and the parents would appreciate having a grownup conversation with colleagues. 

The last one (my favorite). Keep promoting and leveraging humanity that was built among the team members over the last couple of months. As a leader, you might have gotten rid of the excessive seriousness and made you more approachable for your employees. After all, we all have seen each other’s kids coming into the video calls (to varying levels of embarrassment).

A real “gold star act” was when the CEO and CFO invited their kids to join their scheduled business call for a few minutes. The kids met a pen-pal and got much more connected with what their parents do at work. The CEO and CFO instantly increased their level of human-ness, which will tremendously benefit their business relations going forward. This would not have happened pre-pandemic.

Keeping humanity in the business is not only a “nice” thing to do. This is also a smart business division - your team will be operating more efficiently, cooperatively, you will reduce energy wasted on politics, second-guessing and unproductive competitiveness. 

The team and culture that was created:

  • Supports efficient company’s operations,
  • Reduces costs (spent on politics and bureaucracy),
  • Makes decision-making agile and effective
  • Increases loyalty of the employees
  • Supports retention of personnel and protects institutional knowledge.

Lessons from the experience of the past year and how the companies handled the pandemics will be ingrained in people's minds and memories, and what we are creating now (reputation, trust) will last for a long time. 

You’ve been given a chance to create your new normal the way you want it. Now is a perfect time to plan it.

I would be happy to strategize with your organization on how to manage any current challenges and optimally transition to the new normal (it is only a few months away). Send me an email and we'll jump on the call.

Be well,


Sveta Parilova is a career and leadership coach who partners up with mid-career professionals to help them get rekindled and renewed about their work/career so that they feel less stressed and more joyful at work and at home. She is passionate about supporting people in their search for purpose and meaning in their work and life and is humbled and honored to be part of their journey to a more joyful self. Click here to schedule a Complimentary Discovery Session and learn more!


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Svetlana Parilova
Thrive Network International, LLC