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Rebound Mid Michigan: How to readjust to the workplace as businesses reopen in Michigan

Posted at 3:11 PM, Jun 12, 2020

Businesses of all sizes are reopening and more and more Michiganders are going back to work, and the social changes brought on by the pandemic are going with us.

And if everyone is not on the same page, that can lead to some awkward moments.

7 Action News' Keenan Smith talked to a psychologist about how we can navigate the return to work and the interaction that will bring.

From the boardroom to the factory floor: face masks and social distancing are in. close talking and handshakes are out. But we’ve seen not everyone is following the new rules.

Dr. Harry Cohen owns the Black Pearl restaurant in Ann Arbor. He’s also a psychologist and author of "Be the Sun not the Salt," a book about being your best self and improving your everyday interactions.

Cohen says no matter whether you’re dealing with customers or co-workers, how you handle the situation will make the workplace readjustment smooth sailing or a bumpy ride. He suggests being direct without being rude.

"So find some good word tracts that might work for you.' I'm so sorry. I'm a little uncomfortable in these times. Would you mind wearing a mask or would you mind if I just step back a little bit?'" said Dr. Cohen.

Frame the situation around your needs and not the other person's lack of compliance. Also, be slow to offend and slower to be offended. Not everyone has the same level of conscientiousness about COVID-19 rules.

And even people who are trying hard to follow the guidelines will sometimes slip up. If that’s you, try to improve your next interaction. And if someone else forgets:

“No finger wagging, no finger wagging, and no holier than thouism, and no self-righteousness and no trying to make people wrong or stupid," said Dr. Cohen.

Most businesses will have clear protocols in place. And the longer we’re back in the workplace, the easier the day to day will become.

Here’s the Rebound rundown:

  • Know what you need to feel comfortable back in the workplace and don’t afraid to ask for it.
  • Be clear, but be careful not to offend and don't be quick to be offended.
  • Forgive yourself if you and others for accidentally breaking the rules.

And remember: If it’s awkward for you it just might be awkward for the other person too and a good laugh might break the tension.

Humor is extremely important. That smile of yours is extremely important and it will get easier over time if you want it to get easier.

But if you want it to be a difficult readjustment, it can be.

Dr. Cohen says research shows we are influenced by the people around us. But that means we influence the people around us too.

So if you want a work environment that is socially and emotionally healthy, we’re all responsible for creating the best work culture. That was the case before COVID-19 and will be the case afterwards, too.