After weeks of working from home or being furloughed the time is approaching when we can perhaps step outside and ‘go to work’. How will we have been affected by being at home, away from work colleagues in a less than ideal working environment both in terms of equipment, seating and or potential noise levels?
Those living alone will have become used to quiet, those with families will have had to juggle homeschooling with working. Even though we can start to go back to work it is unlikely to be like before. We might return on a rotational basis where a certain number of team members work from home and others are in the office and the following week, then they switch over. Or it might mean everyone can return but with strict social distancing. In whatever scenario, adaptation will be needed. Some people thrive on change, whilst some struggle, and having adapted fully or partially to working from home, these people now have to adapt to a different way of being in the office.
What should employers be doing to support their employees during these times?
Not only do they need to support employees who are working remotely. They also need to support employees as they transition and adapt to a ‘new normal’ when they return to work.
Looking after Your Employees Mental Health
This is the time to be proactively guiding employees to help them manage their stress levels and prevent anxiety and burnout. Some companies have been creating wellbeing videos to support staff to manage stress and to stay fit and healthy during lockdown.
As the end of lockdown nears now is the time to overextend training and 1:1 sessions to support employees mental and physical health. Whilst many organisations are cutting costs, which is not surprising, a cost they should not be cutting back on is taking care of their employees’ mental health. Now is the time that organisations should be showing their human side and championing the emotional wellbeing of their staff.
Remote working can lead to inefficiency and reduced cohesion in teams and of course, we know from experience that this can impact on people’s sense of belonging and in turn their wellbeing.
Lunches, coffee breaks, chats by the water fountain are a distant memory but by using online tools it is possible to stay in touch and connected. A happy hour on a Friday using Zoom or House party or connecting online for a silent meeting where everyone works but can see others can make people feel part of the team and more connected.
Meaning, purpose & direction
We are living through a period of uncertainty which can trigger deep reflection about how we live our lives, the work we do and how we do it. It is leading many people to reflect on how we contribute meaningfully to this world. If an employee does not feel that their employer is helping with these issues, or are on the right track, then they are highly likely to explore other options once Covid19 is contained.
Employers should seek to work towards a common purpose, making sure the organisation is in line with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal’s for example; businesses will need to show empathy and solidarity.
Organisations will need to become more human and step away from 'traditional' leadership. There will be even more focus on 'authentic leadership'. Showing vulnerability, compassion and flexibility will be key.
How can leaders and businesses do this?
Be HUMAN. Be open about your own issues, create a safe space for your employees to talk about their mental health and UNITE people in their efforts and goals as valued members of a cohesive team. Start to proactively prevent mental health issues now.
The companies who will retain their employees will be the ones that showed up during the crisis by looking after their mental health and general wellbeing, communicating clearly, being flexible, showing empathy, and demonstrating compassion and kindness across all levels within the organisation. They will be the one who provided training and expert advice, give support on how to manage stress and look to proactively help their staff avoid burnout.
People will not forget you…
People will remember how they were treated and when Covid19 is resolved they will look back and remember how they were treated by their government, their local council, their bank, their supermarket, their friends and families, the NHS, and – most specifically - their employer.
They will remember those who supported them be it practically, financially or emotionally and they will remember those who cast them adrift.
NOW is the time to step up to the plate, to be there for your teams, for your people and support them in every way possible, to nurture and guide them. These tactics will ensure that your staff know they are valued and secure their loyalty.