Where we are now
The world is a very different place to this time last month. Sometimes you have to pinch yourself to believe that this is really happening. What does this mean for you and your workplace?
Workplaces are going to vary enormously in the effects this has had. Some will have come to an abrupt, if not indecent, halt. If you worked in one of the many places that have been totally closed down you will have been deeply affected. Maybe you are one of the “lucky” ones who will receive full pay or at least be furloughed and receive 80% of your pay. But this won’t cover everyone of course – there are hundreds of thousands who are self employed or working complicated arrangements in the gig economy which may leave them excluded from many of the government schemes.
Alternatively, you could be in one of the industries which is suddenly extremely busy and under great pressure – health, social care, supermarkets, laboratories, deliveries. You will have different pressures on you – pressure to be super productive.
- And either group could have symptoms of Covid 19 and have to self-isolate.
- And either group could have underlying health issues and be concerned.
- And either group could have children who are no longer at school.
- And either group could be very isolated
- And either group could be bereaved by Covid 19 or other causes
- And everyone will struggle to get supplies – having to queue for lengthy times and find supermarket shelves rather “thin” if not completely bare.
So this is a complex mix of situations people find themselves in. This isn’t even taking into account people who may be stranded abroad, as well as the very many who will have had plans for holiday/wedding/other celebration ruined.
Financial worries may well be a huge factor for many people – from wages to investments that have suddenly plummeted in value. There are few who will escape significant struggles.
And maybe you are a manager – dealing with many of the above on a personal level and at the same time trying to support your teams. Most people – if they can – are working from home – so how is that best managed for you and for them?
Home working environment
Have your team members managed to get themselves set up at home as best they can with a space to work from that works? For the majority this will be OK – not perfect but doable. What about for the person who struggles to find somewhere at home to work? Who has poor broadband connection? Restless children and limited space? Can you help? Make suggestions? Find a solution?
Consider the practicalities of working from home and discuss with individuals:
- Work area & environment
- Rest & reflection
- Physical activity
- New skills may be needed – especially around technology
What is important?
What needs to be done and when? Can you relax and let people do their work within the specified timescales – even if that isn’t 9-5? Can you look at the output rather than the hours worked? Leave people to work out how best they can complete their work? This might mean fewer usual hours – but if the work is done is that important?
What is your communication like with remote workers? Maybe you feel that regular emails are sufficient but might you miss something? Communication is likely to be super important now, so when you ask staff how they are, demonstrate that you are really listening to their answer. You may be coping fairly well but think of all of the above scenarios – don’t make assumptions. Think about when and how communication will happen – preferably let people choose a best fit for them. They may ask for daily calls or once a week Zoom, or weekly team gatherings on Zoom. You will have to try things out, experiment – on paper that may have been a good idea but in practice people didn’t find it useful. Being flexible and agile is going to bear fruit.
Now more than ever you will need to personalise your approach – there are now multiple variables. So the phrase “No decision about me, without me” is more apt than ever. Ask people what works best for them rather than trying to standardise – especially regarding communication.
Allaying concerns/dealing with anxiety/inputting change
- Ask for help – you may have a member who is a whizz at something you aren’t, because outside of work they are technically gifted, or may be a therapist, or may not be able to do their usual job but can turn their hand to something else – lots of possibilities.
- Remind people what your organisation provides – such as Employee Assistance Programmes – these offer therapy, financial advice, legal help and will be a boon to many.
- Listen to people’s concerns – you might not be able to “fix” everything, but a supportive listening ear, and some signposting if you can, might give someone a different perspective.
- Set up “buddy” or “mentor” schemes to spread the work of supporting people.
- If people are unable to do a lot of their work what can they be doing in this down time? What tasks are always being pushed to the side and can be done now? If there isn’t anything, maybe encourage them to consider volunteering – lots of opportunities to help?
- What training could people be attending online whilst they are remotely based? Many organisations struggle to get people on training courses due to workload pressures – see this as an opportunity to upskill and train people ready to hit the ground running when they can.
As a manager you don’t have to have all the answers in this ever-changing situation but having respect and care for your team will bring out the best in them and pay dividends when thigs return to normal. Your own boundaries are important too. They may have shifted somewhat but should still be there to protect and support you.