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#2: Social Contact Requires a Social Contract

Welcome back to the SERA Workplace series!

Have you thought much about social contracts? No? That makes all of us. Prior to this pandemic, it was (hopefully) understood that you shouldn’t take up two seats on a crowded train, trim your nails at the conference table, stand facing the back of the elevator, Reply All for no good reason, or reheat fish in the office microwave.

In the workplace and in our larger society, the complex, tacitly understood social contract that binds us together is constantly and subtly evolving. Now that evolution has given way to a radical shift in the way that we will interact with one another.

It’s suddenly clear that many of the unspoken rules of our social contract no longer apply.  Now is the time to establish new rules of engagement that are built on a foundation of trust, mutual understanding, respect and inclusion.  Only when all employees feel comfortable and safe interacting with their coworkers will we be able to lay the groundwork for a resilient, adaptable and equitable workplace. 

But in the midst of a pandemic, what are these new rules of engagement?

One thing is clear: The rules will be different for each organization and each team. So let’s begin with the assumption that we, our coworkers and clients are going to have varying comfort levels and disparities in knowledge about risk and disease transmission, and with that will come perceptions and fears — real or imagined — that we must respect. Trust will be critical to our recovery process, as trust is the basis for all of our relationships, interactions and team dynamics. A foundation of trust leads to stronger growth, increased innovation, greater stability and better health outcomes. 

And while it’s clear that companies and teams of varying size and purpose will require different approaches, each organization and team should take this pause in our traditional workflow as an opportunity to formulate New Rules of Engagement that are centered around health, wellness and safety. 

No matter the size or function of your group, common tenets of the New Rules of Engagement will inherently include:

♦  Culture built on trust, empathy and communication
♦  A pragmatic but positive mindset
♦  Enhanced employee empowerment (ie, flexibility of working methods and control over surroundings)
♦  Clear science-based policies that are intuitive and consistently enforced

We’ll delve deeper into each of these tenets on future blog posts. In the meantime, do you have any ideas for what this new social contract entails? We’d love to hear more about what you think in the comments section below.

 

Authored by Brendan Post and Mia Allen

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