Back Together Again: Vaccines and the Exciting Return to Face-to-Face Interaction

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July is shaping up to be a big month in Japan. The vaccine rollout is proceeding slowly but surely, with those 65 and under set to get their vaccines soon. Plus, the postponed 2020 Olympics will be happening in Tokyo starting on the 23rd of July. 

It’s a busy and exciting month for us as well. We are currently developing a second version of our popular dispatch game, Suitcase Mystery. We will be discussing this project more throughout the month, but needless to say we are thrilled to be able to offer a new product to our corporate team building clients. 

Return to the workplace and its discontents

One of the reasons that we are developing this game is because we are gearing up for the return to more face-to-face interactions (I hesitate to call it a “return to normal”, for reasons that I will get into later). As workers return to the office, either full-time or part-time, they will need ways to get them back into the groove of working in an office setting.

Seeing team workers face to face again is truly something wonderful. Invite Japan has been working remotely for the most part, except for some days when we have all been together putting on a large event, or when small groups of us have been working together on a project or doing research.

Every time that we get to see each other has been special. We feel the difference in how we act in person versus when we are alone at home or talking on a screen with Zoom. It’s palpable and powerful. And I know that most people are feeling the same way too–itching to be back in person.  But let’s be frank, there are reasons why getting back together will be somewhat of a challenge. 

While we don’t necessarily want to dwell on the frustrations of 2020-2021 anymore, we have to acknowledge that this has been a tough year for everyone. Even those who were lucky enough not to have been affected by the pandemic have had to deal with the pervasive stress and anxiety that multiple lockdowns, changes in work environment and lifestyle, lack of adequate socialization, and persistent doubts about the future have wrought.

In other words, people have changed a lot. And maybe not in the most perceptible of ways, either. Everyone may be excited to come to the office at first, but may not be used to dealing with people constantly every day. Or it might take some time to get people back in the habit of being in large groups again.

So there are a number of possible challenges that may occur when people return to the office. Which is not to say that they outweigh the benefits of doing so. Rather, they need to be taken into account. Part of team building means looking out for everyone’s needs and being able to see potential problems down the road.

Here are some of the potential challenges that workers may face when they go back into face-to-face working environments:

  • Lack of practice socializing in-person.
  • Changes in personality or behavior
  • Challenges to re-adaptation to the work environment
  • Separation from family or private workspace that they felt comfortable in
  • Lingering worries and fears about large groups

These challenges can be easily overcome, first by being aware of them and keeping tabs on how your team members are doing. And second, by taking some easy and simple proactive measures to smoothen the transition back.

Remember to prioritize your team members’ feelings and give them space to readapt. A good model to look at is Psychological Safety (which I will look at in greater detail in a later post), which centers team members’ sense of trust, and their ability to express themselves and share their opinions and feelings. Intentionally working to create a psychologically safe environment for returning team members is a great step towards making them feel valued and protected after a hard year.  

It’s also important to remember to look forward, not back. Some things will never go back to the way things were, at least not exactly. That’s why we encourage teams to talk about their successes and accomplishments over the past year, as well as focus on future projects and exciting areas of opportunities that your team can coalesce around. Don’t dwell on lost opportunities or feelings of failure while in lockdown. We all did what we needed to do to get through this together, so now it’s time to plan for the future.

A good way to ease the transition back is with a team building activity in the office. This will get team members reacquainted with the physical office space, as well as give them a chance to have fun together. and get to know each other again in a face to face setting. Team building also will get teams thinking together, meaning that new ideas are likely to flow. 

Get ready for Suitcase Mystery 2

Which brings us back to Suitcase Mystery 2. Suitcase Mystery is so popular because it is a dispatch game–it can be played anywhere, including at an office, a boardroom, a conference center, or any other place that your team wants. 

By developing a new version, we hope that more teams can use it as a means of breaking the ice when everyone returns to the office. So not only will your team be able to get back into the groove of working with each other and flexing their teamwork skills, but they will also be able to do so in the very place where they will be spending the most time. This will help them ease back into the work environment in a fun and lighthearted way.

For the rest of the month we will be giving you more details about the origins of Suitcase Mystery and the process of creating this newest version. We’ll also be digging deeper into some of the aspects of returning to office cultures after working from home, and how you can turn the transition back into an opportunity to strengthen your team’s unity after so much time apart.

Moving forward

This last point is crucial. Nothing should be taken for granted anymore, least of all your team’s safety and well-being. But this interesting time also provides the means of reflecting, reassessing, and regrouping together as a team. With the right focus and attitude, your team can come out stronger, healthier, and more unified than before. 

Especially for teams that will be continuing in a hybrid system (partly remote, partly in office), rethinking how your team functions and works together will be an important part of moving forward. As some workers return to the office and others remain at home, the question of how to effect team unity will be a fundamental one.

To wrap up, team building can help companies as they return to the office or try out new hybrid models. And Invite Japan is working hard to develop new activities that will help break the ice and get your team back to working smoothly again.

We hope you enjoyed this update, and we hope you continue reading our weekly newsletters! Stay tuned every Tuesday and Thursday for more updates on our new products, and information and advice about the world of team building. 

Our dispatch game, Suitcase Mystery is getting another version.

Photo by Christina @ wocintechchat.com on Unsplash

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