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This last year has worn us out. Sure, we can blame Zoom Fatigue – which is a real thing – but the honest truth is that we’ve an intense period of uncertainty, fear, instability, and even boredom.

But this is going to continue, and we wonder if we’ll ever experience “normal” as we had it a couple of years ago. I suspect not.

So how do we keep our energy up?

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As you call people back to the office, you may have a hard time figuring out how strongly to demand that everyone follows the same rules.

There are so many variables! Nature of job tasks, desire for people to connect face-to-face, costs, sanitizing requirements, and so on.

What it comes down to is this: You want to have enough flexibility so that everyone feels reasonably productive, comfortable and supported.

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I see a lot of businesses struggling with their new model for people working in the office versus from home. This is a significant issue for those who worked so hard last year to suddenly create new approaches.

We’ve now discovered that “calling the troops back” isn’t nearly as simple as we expected.

Part of it is the still-evolving regulations, of course, but that’s minor compared to what workers need and expect from their employers. The difficult truth is that each person is making his or her own unique decision, based on complicated factors that they’ve never had to deal with before:

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Rebuilding your work environment post-pandemic is going to be a big challenge! Sure, you have to work around government regulations and community rules. You’ll put cleaning regimens in place and spacing requirements.

But that’s the easy part. People are always much harder.

The problem is that each person has their own requirements, unique comfort levels, and new work patterns developed over the course of a year.

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One of the key frustrations that employees have identified with returning to the office is that they haven’t heard what the plans are.

I get that. As a leader, you want to have a plan that’s solid, one that’s been checked out and can be committed to your folks. Otherwise you might look flaky.

But you have to fight that urge. Your people deserve more respect and need to know what’s in the works before it’s totally solid. And you need their feedback.

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Recently I had a chance to connect with the Fort Collins Chamber’s Talent Summit, which focused on the 2021 emphasis of workers returning to the office. There were a number of golden nuggets that I’ll explore in the coming weeks.

McKinsey has done a big study on Return To Work, and discovered that 29% of employees would consider switching employers if required to return to the office full time. That’s a stunning number, something we couldn’t have predicted a year ago.

If this transition is mismanaged, you could easily lose over a quarter of your workforce. And probably the most valuable workers, since they have the greatest mobility to other companies.

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I’ve been noticing that a lot of people seem to be rethinking their lives now that the pandemic is getting more under control. We’re not out of danger yet by any means, but we’re thinking about whether we should truly go back to life as we knew it a couple of years ago.

I ponder that myself when I think about what 2021 and 2022 should look like for me. I’m of the mind to make some changes.

This raises a couple of questions for you. First, what do you want to increase and what do you want to decrease as you figure out your future?

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I want to express my appreciation for all of you who have stuck with me for so many years. I’ve been publishing a newsletter since 2010, and have received an incredible amount of support and valuable feedback.

Thank you.

And that’s the subject of this article, actually. Expressing thanks for the great work that people are doing, whether paid or not. This is something I’ve learned with leading volunteer groups, but just as important for my employees.

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We learn very early in life to conform, to fit in, to copy.

Unfortunately this doesn’t usually lead to success in business. And it doesn’t make you a leader.

Instead, you have to figure out how you’re going to be different, to stick out and be memorable. But this takes courage.

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We live in an imperfect world. Which means that things are always less than ideal, less than perfect.

There are three ways to come to peace with this fact: First, to change the world to be what you want it to be. Second, to change your expectations to agree with what the world gives you.

But there’s a surprising alternative:

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