It’s no secret that we’re currently experiencing one of the biggest medical, social and financial crises in modern history. There’s not a single person on the planet whose life the Corona virus hasn’t disrupted; in these unstable times, your workforce’s mental and emotional health should be taking center stage.
While we’ve covered how internal mobility and HR tech can help on the business end of things here, we’d like to dedicate this post to your employees’ perspective, and what you can do to make sure you’re doing everything you can to help them during these difficult times.
In his blog, Josh Bersin wrote last week that during this crisis, our focus should shift to “People First, Economics Second.” This means that while the economy may be slowing down, it will, eventually, take care of itself when things settle. But the most valuable and important part of our organizations – people – need to feel that they’re being looked after and taken care of as well.
With millions of people losing their jobs almost overnight, even if your employees are still working, being productive and earning their salaries, there’s no way that the new economic reality isn’t taking an emotional toll. Their feelings of distress can be compounded if your employees have started working from home, where they may feel less visible and less connected to the workplace, and so, they may feel like they’ve become more “disposable.”
Luckily, there are a few simple things you can do to help alleviate your employees’ fear and make sure they get through these rough times in the best way possible.
Working from home is a complex issue in and of itself; some of the most basic tasks and functions available to us at the office can suddenly turn complicated, whether it’s being able to speak freely with our colleagues, or just having a quiet desk to sit at and think. At home, finding a quiet spot to work from can be a real challenge, let alone avoiding distractions and the toll in concentration video meetings take.
Under these conditions, and due to the distance, workers can often feel their work isn’t being seen. With a financial crisis raging outside, this can be a scary prospect. If their work isn’t seen, their contribution to the company can easily be underestimated, and their value may decrease. With layoffs taking place at an unprecedented rate across countless world economies, your workers may become worried that they’re not being seen as essential – and the stress that entails can incur a serious emotional toll.
A good way to address this issue is to use communication channels that encourage gratitude. With the right human resource management tools, you can make sure your employees are receiving regular feedback on their assignments. With managers acknowledging and reviewing their team members’ tasks, they will know that their work has been seen and appreciated, and that their role is still valuable to the company.
Even when everything’s normal, some of the most stressful issues people face in the workplace and in their careers come down to a lack of control over their future. Our fate is, almost literally, in the hands of our employers, and it is them who decide where our careers will go next – and our own routine rarely gives us the opportunity to shape it ourselves. When we lose ourselves to this helplessness, Psychology Today write in their blog, “we metaphorically shrug and surrender to not living the life we might have hoped for. The malaise that ensues contributes to our epidemic of depression and a host of other disorders.” In other words, a lack of control over our future can make us give up on the future we wanted – and the way to depression from there is short.
In the current pandemic-induced economic climate, for many on the workforce it feels like that professional fate is quickly slipping from even their employers’ hands, and finding itself subject to the wills of the Corona virus.
But it doesn’t have to be that way.
In recent years, many large enterprises have begun to change, and are giving their employees many more opportunities to control and influence their professional journeys. When a company begins to focus on internal mobility and hiring from within the workforce, employees can take a proactive approach to their careers, looking for roles and projects within the organization that interest them, and allow them to learn and grow on the job.
When the reality around them seems uncertain, this empowers employees to ask and see where they can contribute to their workplace, and returns control over their career paths to them.
Another major issue during these turbulent times is the fact that tasks and priorities are constantly changing. Each day, we wake up to a radically different economic reality, and have to alter our assignments accordingly. For employees and managers, this can often feel directionless. Without a clear horizon to strive towards, morale and focus can quickly erode.
As your workforce rushes from one disparate task to another, one of the most helpful things they can cling to is the big picture. With a clear plan in sight, what may seem like an endless stream of different assignments coming at them in rapid succession can suddenly take on a different light, and become much more manageable. With this internal compass in place, it’s much easier for employees to keep going, even with our current, chaotic reality regularly throwing curveballs at them.
During this pandemic, it can often feel like we’re receiving blow after blow, be it personal, professional, or social, without any end in sight. It’s in times like these that a win – any win – can really turn things around, and the way we manage tasks within our organizations has the power to give that win to those who need it most.
One way to do that is to change the way tasks are managed within your organization; rather than sticking to set, long-term tasks based on employees’ job descriptions, breaking assignments down into smaller, more manageable “gigs” not only allows for more flexibility and problem-solving; it also gives your employees a manageable, short-term goals they can complete and take pride in. This does more than just bolster their sense of accomplishment – it turns their workplace into a place of positivity, something that’s currently in very short supply.
Despite everything we’ve discussed so far, there’s a limit to what organizational change and managerial care can accomplish. It’s easy to forget, but for most employees, one of the most basic functions their workplace provides isn’t career advancement or a source of income – it’s a community. And while they’re essential, social distancing, sheltering in place and self isolation have torn these workplace communities apart, in one quick, fell swoop. And during these times, one of the things your employees need most is a community to fall back on. Corridor and water cooler conversations were, up until recently, so taken for granted that they were almost invisible, but now, people need a more structured forum where they can air out frustrations, share experiences, and put things in proportion. You are now in a unique position to provide them with this essential service. Think about setting up a sort of virtual cafeteria, or even setting aside time that’s dedicated exclusively to social video calls between colleagues. These little moments of interest-free human interaction will do wonders for the mental and emotional health of the people in your charge.
These issues are only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the workplace problems the current global crisis has brought with it. We believe that they’re all solvable, and can even be a good trigger for long-term, positive organizational change. But perhaps the most important thing to remember is that our organizations and workplaces are currently full of people who need support and help. Whether it’s professional or personal, what we should all be striving for is to hold each other up, and to give a helping hand whenever we can – because making sure your employees are safe and secure is more than just about a bottom line at the end of the month. It’s about being kind to one another, when we need kindness the most.