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Navigating new & evolving pandemic conditions

You’ve probably heard the news that the CDC issued updated guidelines. I know I’m feeling fortunate and relieved about the efficacy of the vaccines. Hopefully the situation with the pandemic will continue to improve. But, if you’re like me, you may also be feeling a sense of unease. Conditions are shifting again, and there is a lot of uncertainty about how to adapt. Each person is weighing their own comfort with risk, and each organization is weighing their local conditions. If your community is lifting mask mandates, you may feel you have more questions than answers.

At TREC, we have begun meeting together in smaller teams and are slowly moving towards work travel. We are holding off until December to meet as a full staff and board. We are a dispersed team working virtually so we don’t need to make a decision about being in the office that many of you face. These are tough calls. As you think through your options, here are some things you might want to consider.

Everyone is saying this, but I think it is good advice to highlight: Keep doing what worked for you and your team during the pandemic. Maybe you’ve found that having virtual coalition meetings or board meetings made them more accessible to more people.  Maybe you’ve found that working early hours before others in the office start their day has been very productive time for you. Maybe you’re saving time by processing bill payment online. Etc. Etc.    

Many of you are anxious to be together as a whole team. As you consider planning retreats, remember to give folks time to adjust to these new conditions. For some who have been quarantined for over a year, largely in social isolation, it will be hard to go immediately from zero to sixty. Maybe start with some smaller group meetings and build upon those.

Many staff have been holding off on taking vacations because of travel and social distancing restrictions. With the loosening of restrictions, staff may want to take vacations to see extended family and friends. That is a huge priority for folks so leave plenty of room in the organizational calendar to accommodate staggered vacations.
Some of you may make coming in to the office or attending an event in-person optional. Keep in mind, however, that saying something is optional doesn’t mean it feels optional to everyone. Staff may feel they will miss out or be judged by their decision to not attend. They may feel subtle pressure from leaders, colleagues, or just from themselves. You may think you are being respectful of individual choice, but you are also pushing off the decision on to them, and asking staff with less agency to navigate what could be a difficult choice.

If you play this out over time, too, with hybrid models of some staff working at home and some in the office, you may be unintentionally creating inequities. Staff in the office may get more access to leaders and colleagues, get more useful information and input, and get access to more opportunities. Over time this could adversely affect the growth and development of staff who are working offsite. You will need to pay particular attention to mitigate the unintended consequences, and may need to compensate in other ways.

Last March we all moved very quickly as conditions were changing rapidly with the pandemic. As we adapt to the new current changing situation, we don’t need to move so quickly. In making decisions, give yourself the spaciousness to weigh options, keep what worked, and consider the unintended impact. Let us at TREC know how we can help as we figure out how to navigate this changing environment together.

Be well,

Megan Seibel
TREC Executive Director
Background Image: American Rivers | Scott Bosse

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