May 15, 2022 10:22 am

Fist or kiss? The new cracks in the offices and the challenges that come

The pandemic installed new customs and rules that are not always shared. Behind closed doors, each family applies the sanitary measures it considers necessary. The same thing happens in groups of friends, which are handled with their own codes. In both cases, trust plays a fundamental role. But there is another area in which it is more complex to establish coexistence guidelines in times of coronavirus: the office.

After confinement, the return to face-to-face work was progressive and not without learning. The ways of relating in the office changed substantially from the need to maintain social distance, the mandatory use of the mask, the prohibitions to share drinks, food or infusions and the rest of the safety guidelines. But, as happens in other spaces, Not everyone adapts to the new reality in the same way.

The coexistence guidelines are unprecedented and the companies must still update protocols to avoid conflicts and take care of the staffShutterstock – Shutterstock

Vanina works in the administrative part of a company in the health sector and admits that there are situations that disturb her. “Personally, it bothers me when many people gather in the office because the social distancing that is requested is not complied with,” says this 47-year-old woman who, like the rest of the employees who gave her testimony, preferred not to give her testimony. last name.

“We do not share the mate, we keep the mask on all day and work with open windows and doors, but in some cases, the greetings are like before the pandemic with kisses and hugs”, points out.

For Mariela, who works in the administrative sector of a university, the frictions are due to the different positions regarding the virus and care. “On the one hand, you have the person who thinks everything is fine and takes off his mask and, on the other, there is the one who is cleaning all the time, who he can’t even sit down without wiping down with alcohol. Discussions are also generated on the subject of open or closed window, the air on or off and by the number of people in the place”, he details.

“What bothers me the most is being in a meeting with a mask, especially when you have to talk,” explains María, 45, who works at the National Institute of Technological Education and resumed attendance in mid-October.

Companies analyze the new dynamics among their employees. The ways of interacting have to be redefined from the simplest: greeting with fist or kiss.

For Alejandro Melamed, consultant, international speaker and reference on the future of work, in the office you can see what happens in life itself. “You have some who behave as if nothing has happened and others who get really uncomfortable in everyday situations. A solution found by a Dutch company was Put your employees red, green and yellow wristbands. Identifies the most fearful people with red and the least fearful with green. I think it’s a good idea that sets the tone on how each has to deal with the other in the new environment”, he assures.

In this sense, the human resources areas seek to avoid harshness and achieve harmony in work environments. For Myriam Álvarez, director of organizational culture at Telefónica Movistar, the first thing to understand in this return is that We are not the same people we were in March 2020. “Each one had their experience and we found our new nuances. Respect, tolerance, empathy with what happens to the other and to each one of us are key. There are people who live in fear or take great care of people they live with who are at risk and take precautions that others may find unnecessary, ”he describes.

The specialist even warns about a more fundamental difference: “There are people who prefer to spend much more time in the office and others who, on the contrary, are inclined to work from home,” she exemplifies.

The experts focus on tolerance in the workplace: everyone is linked differently with care and no one should be labeled
The experts focus on tolerance in the workplace: everyone is linked differently with care and no one should be labeledShutterstock – Shutterstock

Andrés Hatum, doctor and professor at the Torcuato Di Tella University (UTDT), emphasizes that companies have to guarantee that contact between employees is careful and at the same time fluid to contribute to the creativity, innovation and team performance. “That is what companies are working for today. Offices are becoming collaborative and flexible spaces. That’s where the challenge lies,” he says.

“Necessary that we refrain from re-labeling people in the world of work and this will be fundamental in order not to regress what has been advancing in inclusion in recent years. In the end, I am optimistic about the new possibilities that are opening up in this world that calls us to be more and more human,” adds Álvarez.

For Silvina Uviz D’Agostino, Director of Human Resources at Microsoft Argentina, it is essential to clarity on protocols that must be met. In this way, different interpretations of behavior in the office can be avoided. “Both the layout of the space and the cleanliness were rethought. All collaborators, when entering, must complete a control form and respect a series of requirements that, in turn, are communicated internally”, he says.

Before going to the office, each employee must reserve their work space through an application to ensure that distance and capacity are met. In that same procedure, he declares that he has no symptoms.

The greeting with elbow, fist or kiss, one of the points that can generate conflicts in the offices
The greeting with elbow, fist or kiss, one of the points that can generate conflicts in the officesShutterstock – Shutterstock

The survey of vaccinated and unvaccinated It is also imposed in the business world. And there a chapter of difficult resolution opens: what attitude to take with those employees who do not want to be vaccinated? Although it is your right, can you go to the office? The companies, at this point, have so far not adopted a unified position. This is a current debate: the idea is that when they return from vacation, when the bulk of the staff resumes their activities, there is a definition.

The new paradigm affects labor relations in an unprecedented way and accelerated trends that had already been outlined. Added to this are conjunctural factors. “There are problems even for companies that are working well with their staff because local salaries are uncompetitive internationally and even regionally,” explains Hatum. And he comments that, during the pandemic, for example, Workana -a Latin American platform for freelancers- grew by 45%.

“In the United States there are two trends, on the one hand, people who directly leave the labor market and define how they want to live and, on the other, there are digital nomads that between 2019 and 2021 grew by 3 million people and today there are 11.5 million”, he specifies.

Freelancers and digital nomads, trends that are growing in the pandemic
Freelancers and digital nomads, trends that are growing in the pandemic

Melamed emphasizes the learning that this new reality represents and introduces more challenges. How companies promote culture from a distance, how they transmit the company’s values ​​or how they resolve the conflicts that are generated according to the position of each employee in the face of the pandemic are just some of the topics under discussion. “These are issues that are looking for the point and from which we all learn at the same time,” he concludes.

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