We all have different levels of comfort these days. Will you be going back to the office soon? This is a time of uncertainty and there are not easy decisions. 

Recently a colleague asked me to join her for lunch. She noted that she had been visiting many restaurants and other services and was not sure the coronavirus was that big a deal. She did not know of anyone who had been affected. It was just when things started opening up and I had not ventured out in a while. I agreed to meet. However, when I mentioned it to my family I was surprised at their reaction and hesitation. I felt a bit nervous, but called my colleague to postpone the in-person meeting. I was grateful that she said, “I completely understand, it’s okay.” 

This may be a good response to remember. Even though I knew that she had a different level of risk tolerance she did not shame me or make me feel uncomfortable. In fact, I appreciated her response and it enhanced our connection.

Unfortunately, quite a few people have called me to share similar worries. For example, a manager shared that he considers himself an A player and is already feeling concerned with pressure to return to his office. While he does not feel comfortable going into the office, he does not want to say no to his boss who believes people should return. A school teacher is stressed about going back and doesn’t feel she has a real choice. Another person said she is feeling pressured to participate in a local meeting in person and does not know how to respond to the shaming. She doesn’t want to let her colleague down and is upset that the person is telling her there is no potential for harm when a large group will be assembled in a small space. 

Some of my clients are choosing not to reopen their offices for some time and as many as 70% of employees in some companies have said they prefer to work from home now that they have experienced the benefits. This is a time for leaders to show they care about the wellbeing of their staff and to create dialogue for open conversations about needs and concerns. 

This is a time to remember that each person is having a different experience, has a unique level of risk tolerance and may have health issues themselves or those they live with may be vulnerable. The most important thing is to notice your judgment and remember to stop, step back, cool down and shift to being open and understanding. Be careful not to shame others and to appreciate their honesty. Each person needs to evaluate the situation and make their choices.

Remember to respect differences and appreciate that each of us needs to make our own decisions and we need to be flexible and supportive of one another. “I completely understand, it’s okay.”