Wellbeing During COVID-19

Returning to the Workplace

Step 3

Taking the initiative to realign with work

So much has changed in the world of work during the last three months; equally much will have changed for you in your life.   This is a good time, therefore, to look to realign what is often called the “psychological contract” at work. The psychological contract often needs modification as circumstances alter or evolve.  The needs of the organisation change, the needs of the individual change. What individuals offer changes over time as a result of experience, expertise, education and development as does what the organisation offers. It should not be viewed as fixed forever.

Look for an opportunity to have an early conversation with your line manager when you return to work.  In some cases, this may already have been organised for you but if not then seize the initiative.  It will show your commitment and it also allows you to give voice to your own views, concerns and to discuss things that are on your mind, including any physical and/or mental health and wellbeing matters.

Clearly recent unprecedented events may well mean that what the organisation wants and what it can offer may well have to be adjusted.  Equally what you want and what you offer may also have changed.  That is why it is so important to discuss this with your manager and to review the psychological contract between you and the organisation, to share where you are both at, and check carefully what is needed and what is offered.  This diagram may help to give that conversation a straightforward basis and structure for you to discuss your alignment.

Start by listening carefully to the update your manager provides about the organisation and its plans.   Seek clarification on specifically what this means for your current role and what is needed from you as you return to the workplace.  Take on board that your manager may want you to change some of what you do to meet new demands.   This may well be a tough conversation for your manager and you.   Organisations have been seriously impacted by recent events and the future, given the threat of a deep recession, may continue to look uncertain.

This is an important time to understand from your manager what the organisation is able to offer at present.   They may be offering you a new role with more responsibility, or further development, or a redeployment.  It may be that your skills, your expertise are going to be a key part of their plans and they will want to offer you some security around your job.   The opposite is also possible.   There may be a need to cut back hours, to reduce opportunities for career progression, and in some cases to consider making posts redundant.   Prepare yourself, therefore, for every eventuality including some level of ongoing uncertainty.   The situation is still evolving so organisations may not be able to give a clear message.   But by having this discussion now you can ensure that you have opened the communication channels, taken the initiative and can feel positive about what you can control.

The psychological contract is two-way.  It is not just about what the organisation wants and offers, it’s also about you.   This is where your thinking over the last few weeks, your discovery of what really matters to you, your strengths and vulnerabilities, and your purpose and priorities for the future will influence what you say to your manager. You will naturally need to be mindful of the current work situation and realistic about the organisation’s position and it’s why you have listened carefully to what your manager has to say, but now it’s your turn to voice what you want and what you offer now, and into the future.

Be clear what you offer and in particular how you can contribute during the coming weeks and months.  Draw from your past knowledge and experience of course, but also let your manager know what else you can offer that perhaps is relevant to their needs.  Do not be afraid to state what skills or experience you have that you feel are being under-utilised at present.   Share what you have learnt about yourself that may be helpful to them.

Move on to what you want.  Be realistic, it’s not the time for a wish list but it is the opportunity to be specific around what you want from your career and from the organisation in the immediate and mid-term future. This may include a greater focus on your health and wellbeing, adjustments to your working pattern. If you desire a change of role or more responsibility or to develop new capabilities make this clear.  Even if you need to wait a while it is important that your organisation knows for future reference. If you are looking in the future to work from home more, or to alter your hours of working then make your case.  Be prepared to speak up, to explore options.

Be positive, flexible and accommodating.  The psychological contract is about finding a shared position not being rigid with fixed views.  Use this early meeting as the start of an ongoing work-life conversation with your manager.   It’s an opportunity for transparency and re-calibration during this time of uncertainty.  At the end of it you should feel that you know better what it is that the organisation offers and needs from you; equally you should feel that you have been able to make visible what you offer and what you need, now and for your future.

Use your personal resilience strategies as the basis for leaping forward.

If you would like to discuss the relevance to your organisation, please call us