Preparing for a Post-Pandemic Normal

This article can also be found on LinkedIn and Thrive Global.


Applying lessons from reverse culture shock to the global re-opening and return to familiarity with a twist.


Absence makes the heart grow fonder.

During the pandemic, we’ve isolated from family, friends, and workplaces. As the world re-opens, you are likely excited about the return to “normal” – to see friends and family or go to restaurants and perhaps finding some balance away from family are high on your list of priorities.


As a transition coach, I consistently support people managing their journey to familiar environments. It starts with excitement at your arrival and seeing old friends and family, finding the foods you’ve missed, and the joy of navigating a familiar environment in a familiar language. This excitement slowly turns to frustration or isolation, as the returnee misses the adventure of life abroad, experiences the lack of interest from friends or family, or just itches for the next adventure.


1.      Feel Your Feels: You may be feeling only excitement at the possibility of return. You might be apprehensive about work piling up that you could not accomplish while at home or worried about engaging with co-workers you would rather not entertain. You might have found your new work-life balance preferable to the time at work coupled with commute times. You may also find yourself trying to reconcile being asked to come into work before you assess it is safe enough – a situation that might include anger, frustration, and feelings of impotence.

  • Talk to your boss about the measures in place to protect your health. Discuss what options you have to continue remote work if you are apprehensive about workplace health standards

  • Come up with an action plan for how you will accomplish things that piled up

  • Prioritize your values - take time to reflect on what you’ve been grateful for during this time and how you can continue to prioritize it after re-opening

  • Express yourself – whether in writing, art, or speaking. Let yourself recognize how you are feeling including elation, can help you understand your responses


WFH might change your priorities.


2.      Manage Your Expectations: Re-opening is being heralded as a return to normal. Yet, the new normal will look physically different. Already there are stories about mannequins in restaurants to enforce physically-distanced seating and face masks being required in offices. It will also feel different. We may see fewer in-person meetings or customizable food options. Alternatively, the co-worker you thought you knew so well might have new priorities. You may feel like everyone around you changed while they were away.


So, how do we plan to understand and manage our expectations?

  • Identify what you are excited about, how you will replace that if it doesn’t come to pass and how you will interrupt or reframe experiences to find them fresh again

  • Know that it will pass, so savor the return experience, while being prepared for the next new thing – either by sharing experiences you’ve enjoyed or writing them down

  • Be kind to yourself in accomplishing things in the new normal and be patient with the new systems, just as you were when setting up your home office.


We capture our images of the past through rose-colored glasses. These can be idealized in ways that require some expectations management upon our return.

3.      Adapt and Evolve. The pandemic required us to adapt to new models of doing things, going back to normal will be more similar to a next chapter than a return, requiring innovation and adaptation. We have become accustomed to virtual meetings or even getting rid of meetings all together. Efficiencies that many companies are looking to embrace in the post-COVID19 world. Take the new normal as an opportunity to advance ideas or innovate on projects. It might allow you to build new connections or pursue interests within a company that finds itself more open to change than it was previously.

  • Determine what you want to change and actionable steps for implementing new procedures or methods at work

  • Recognize that in-person meetings may disappear and action plan how you will develop relationships important to work

  • Based on your priority reflection, determine how you can align work and life in a way that is most fulfilling. Use that action plan to pitch your boss for alternative work schedules or other benefits.

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