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Do You Suffer From FONO?

No, it’s not a type-o, nor is it to be confused with its close relative, FOMO.  In fact, it’s the exact opposite of FOMO (Fear of Missing Out).  FONO is the Fear of Normal.  The social anxiety caused by the stress about getting back to pre-pandemic ‘normal’.

My initial reaction was, “you’ve got to be kidding”.  But the more I thought about it and the more I considered my own experience and I totally got it.  Regardless of whether you consider yourself introverted or extroverted, humans are social beings; we need human connection.  And the past year has challenged all of us.  Many of us have lived in fear of being around people outside of our homes or small social ‘bubbles’.  Our homes were transformed from a place of comfort and solitude to a place of safety and shelter (and workplaces and schools!) from the pandemic.  Routine activities like leaving our homes to shop, dine at restaurants, or gather with friends were either eliminated completely or drastically reduced.  As the world begins the journey to reopen, many of us are faced with varying levels of social anxiety.

In addition to returning to ‘normal’ in our personal lives, there are big adjustments that we’re facing in our professional lives.  With many people furloughed or working from home, organizations are now faced with making decisions on what the ‘return to office’ strategy will be.  Some organizations are opting to stay the course with remote working, some are calling their employees back into the office and some are going with a hybrid approach.  Regardless of the strategy, there will be discomfort among returning employees as they relearn and readjust to our post-pandemic lives.

As an organization, there are things you can do to proactively support your people:

Meet Employees Where They Are

It took 18 months to adapt to a new and very disruptive work dynamic, so it is understandable that many will take that much time to adjust to this next big change.  Some will be keen to get back into the office with their colleagues while others may still have various levels of hesitancy.  What’s important is that no one be judged or alienated, and that managers and employers allow for flexibility and understanding during this transition.  Reach out often and always ask “how are you doing?”.

Demonstrate Empathy

Here we go again with empathy!  Like it or not, it continues to be a leadership trait that will be a huge benefit to teams and organizations.  You can’t meet people where they are unless you can make yourself vulnerable and sincerely connect with them.  And, yes, empathy can be a learned behavior.

Connect. Connect. Connect.

Prioritize 1:1s — now and always.  15 minutes, 30 minutes, or an hour.  It’s a time for managers and employees to connect on both a professional and personal level.  Be aware of changes in behaviors and engagement levels, and if there are concerns you may choose to reach out more frequently.

The Cost of Ignoring FONO

We’ve been reading a lot about it – employees are leaving their jobs in record numbers.  According to Josh Bersin, the cost of losing an employee is about 2X an employee’s salary (and as much as tens of thousands of dollars!).  Great talent is hard to find so you need to hold on to your best and brightest.

Here are a couple of excellent resources to support you and your teams as we navigate FONO:
Resilience – Grow Through It
How to Support Your Returning Workforce

Meet your employees where they are and reduce FONO

Jane Farquhar is the Director of Product Marketing at TalentQuest where she develops the go-to-market strategy for their talent management and learning solutions. Jane is a seasoned marketing professional whose career in the analytics and talent management technology space spans over 25 years.  She has held a wide range of field-facing and product marketing roles with industry-leading organizations Cognos, IBM-Kenexa and Saba.

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