By Dr. Jeremy Graves

We are living in a world of change. We all know that the world is changing and, like most things in life, once we get used to this change a new one will occur. We may not know what tomorrow brings, but we can be certain that change is constant so learning to deal with change is a great predictor of our success as leaders.

Recently millions of people were told to shelter in place. What was novel at first quickly became mundane, and frankly lead to a large group of stir-crazy employees working from home. Over the next six to nine weeks we began to experience a new sense of normal and to develop a routine for working from home. Just like most things in life, as soon as we got good at it (and used to it) our places of work are starting to slowly re-open.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, our assessment partner TTI created the Working From Home report. This is a six-page report detailing the habits we bring into our work from home.

My own report painted a picture of my work habits and gave me tips to be successful working from home. It included suggestions like:

  • Keep comments or ideas concise on video or conference calls to allow others to ask clarifying questions.
  • Review your notes before the end of a meeting to make sure you have all the information you need.
  • Be prepared to back up your ideas with a few facts. Don't rely on intuition only. Call a colleague to bounce your ideas before making a decision.

I personally found these tips very insightful in allowing me to do my best work while in isolation and working from home. This report also got me thinking about how we might return to work based on our behaviors. The Working From Home report broke us into four distinct behaviors along a continuum called DISC.

D- Dominance, indicates how we deal with problems and challenges

I- Influence, helps us understand how we handle situations involving people and contacts

S- Steadiness, gives us insight into how people think about things like pace and consistency

C- Compliance, shows how one might react to procedures and constraints

So how do our behavioral patterns affect how we return to work? Using DISC as a guideline, I began to consider what behaviors might show up as we get back into the office. Returning to work carries a whole set of concerns with it and this blog just begins to scratch the surface. However, I couldn’t shake taking a look at our behaviors and how they might affect our re-engagement. Of course, we are unique individuals that are more than the sum of one behavioral style; nevertheless, see if you might notice your default behavioral style as you return to work.

We all know there will be changes in how we interact, what our office looks like, and how we navigate next steps. Let’s look at how each behavioral style might show up as we go back to work.

Someone who is a High D will move rapidly as soon as things begin to open back up. They will look for ways to adjust to the new normal as quickly as possible. They will be driven to step into a lets “get ‘er done!” mentality and will waste no time in jumping back into work with a sense of excitement and energy that might seem overwhelming to some.

Meanwhile a Low D will look cautiously at coming back to the office. They may be watchful of how others are responding to the environment. This group will take more time to readjust because they understand there is no such thing as “normal,” so they may look for ways to ease into the workplace with a cautious optimism.

What about a High I, how might they re-engage with the office? They will begin by looking for opportunities to talk. Yes, the Zoom meetings helped, but being around people brings energy. Make sure you mark off those 6-foot parameters because a High I is going to want to get as close as legally possible and engage in dialogue.

A Low I, however, will be restrained, watchful, reflective, and reserved. They will ensure that a 6-foot distance is kept at all times and they will be mindful of others while social distancing. Most likely they will have contemplated thoroughly the process of returning to work and will ensure that others know their plan.

How might a High S return to their place of work? They are going to be very predictable in their approach to the office. They will want no surprises and will help steady the team as they navigate a sense of pace and consistency. They will be helpful knowing if the organization is moving too fast or slow in the reopening stages. They will be mindful of what others are saying and will have valuable insight into the reopening process. Find ways to empower them to share their thoughts. They can be a goldmine when it comes to pace.

Those who are a Low S will be flexible and go with the flow of reengagement. There may be a sense of wanting to move faster. They may seem eager, while looking for ways to participate with the team and get the ball moving as the company comes back to the office. There might be a time when this person needs to be given the ability to share input, or at the very least an explanation, as to the timeline of getting back to work. Otherwise they may run ahead in the process.

Last, but certainly not least, what are the High C’s thinking about as they return to work? First, they will consider if we’ve followed all the rules, likely having the governor’s COVID-19 response website, the CDC, and your organizational emergency protocol up on their laptops. This is to ensure that your organization is not missing any of the steps to safely reopen. High C’s will be a treasure-trove on the reopening team as they will be cross their T's, dot their I’s and ensure that your company opens successfully without little-to-no problems.

Then how might a Low C think about the office reopening? They may look through the lens of innovation and creativity when it comes to work. They will be concerned with how the company is going to pivot and adapt to this new sense of normal and how they might lead a creative charge to bring a whole new way of working to the office. Find space to listen as they may have a very unique idea that others have not thought of.

Did you find yourself in any of these? Maybe you are a combination of several? While this is not the only way we will show up for work, there may be some behaviors that rise to the surface during this process. The DISC behavioral styles are a part of every team, and everyone is important. Every behavioral style is needed in the reopening process. Let’s keep looking for ways to celebrate our differences and do our best to enjoy returning to the office with a smile on our face and ready to engage. After all, it is our “new normal.”

To talk to Jeremy about the Working From Home Report or DISC, email him at [email protected]