This year has dealt a tough blow to businesses and employers worldwide, with many unable to operate during the lockdown periods and facing hardship in between times too.
As a result of that, employees everywhere have had to adapt to new environments, procedures and tasks just to make it possible for them to perform their jobs and keep the business running smoothly. Millions of us have been working from home for the past eight months, with no immediate end in sight.
Although this may have been regarded as a novelty initially, we’re all longing for a sense of “normality” so that we can enjoy some real interaction with our colleagues to ignite the team spirit. The effects of the pandemic have been far reaching and could simply not have been predicted when we contemplated the first lockdown back in March.
Staff wellbeing and motivation
It has been widely reported that the UK workforce has been experiencing increased levels of anxiety, concern and disengagement within their role since the start of the pandemic. The initial lockdown came as a huge shock to many people and took a long time to get used to. As lockdown eased and some people were able to start returning to work where it was safe to do so, spirits may have lifted slightly, but the second wave and subsequent lockdown have sent many back to square one.
As an employer it is your responsibility to support your staff throughout this time to ensure their mental wellbeing is considered and that additional help is being provided where needed. People may be feeling this way without realising and it could also be impacting other areas of their life so it needs to be addressed.
Assess each staff member and communicate with each person individually to get a feel for how they are coping. Talk it over with them and ask if there is anything you can do to help ease any anxieties. Let them know they are appreciated - a simple “thank you” for their hard work will give them a huge boost and renew their sense of value. If staff are becoming disengaged, try giving them a different project to work on or some new responsibilities that may reinvigorate their appetite for work and give them more of a focus.
Most of us enjoy interaction with our colleagues and maybe a little office camaraderie as well; it’s all part of being a cohesive team. For many, the lack of interaction has tested their resilience. It’s now more important than ever to keep striving to ensure your staff still feel part of a team. Ask for their input, do they have any ideas for keeping in touch? Regular video meetings are a good start, even just 10 minutes each morning for a catch up will give everyone the chance to share their plans for their day. Businesses worldwide have hosted virtual quizzes, trivia games, coffee mornings and even happy hours!
The cost of staff absence
This topic is two fold; there are costs associated with the physical absence of staff, perhaps if they have been furloughed or sent to work from home, and also staff absence due to work-related stress and mental health issues.
The furlough scheme has been a lifeline for so many businesses as it enables employees to be paid 80% of their wages (up to £2,500) without employers having to contribute to this. Whilst this is a huge advantage and has undoubtedly saved thousands of jobs that would otherwise have been made redundant, employers do still have to pay employees’ National Insurance and pension contributions, which could be a significant amount at a time when their business may not be profitable.
Another potential cost to the employer relates to staff working from home. Whilst this may be a perfectly viable option for many, some people will struggle to focus on their own without input and supervision, and if this is the case, productivity and motivation could decrease.
This leads onto the second point of absence due to stress. People Management, the CIPD’s official magazine, recently reported that according to the Health and Safety Executive’s 2019 statistics, 12.8 million days were lost due to work-related stress, depression or anxiety. The Office for National Statistics (ONS) has reported that the number of adults in Britain experiencing depression has doubled during the coronavirus pandemic, so the cost of staff absence this year is going to be huge.
Communication and leadership
Managers and team leaders have had to deal with a completely new set of challenges whilst managing their teams this year. Not only are the normal issues of juggling workloads and keeping customers happy still there, but there are also the added worries about staff wellbeing and effective communication due to home working.
With teams working separately from home, the majority of communication will be done via email or messenger and some of the meaning could get lost in translation. Although many teams have adopted video calls for meetings and daily or weekly catch-ups, it’s simply not the same as having a chat in the office or asking a quick question when you need to.
Working alone at home will make many workers feel isolated; a small problem that would normally be easily rectified within the office, becomes magnified with no one around to assist. Relationships between managers and staff can become fraught and team members may feel disconnected from one another.
It’s essential that managers strive to find ways to keep the lines of communication open and that response times are quick to ensure fluidity. Try to keep going with regular video meetings for the whole team, even if just to talk about your plans for the weekend with a cup of tea!
Keep your employees’ spirits up with motivational messages and words of encouragement and let them know you appreciate all they are doing. Simon Sinek is an author and motivational speaker who believes optimism is the key to success. His Podcasts are popular and could offer another dimension to those struggling during the pandemic.
Adapting to being technology dependent
Everyone who has switched to working from home this year has had to increase their use of technology and get to grips with certain software to make everyday tasks possible. We’re sending more emails to communicate with people, using Chat and Messenger to fire off questions to colleagues and getting onboard with video apps such as GoogleMeet, Microsoft Teams and Zoom to hold virtual face-to-face meetings with colleagues and clients.
It’s great to have such a selection of platforms to choose from and lean on during this time, but familiarising ourselves with them and learning how to use them effectively takes time. Employers should offer support and online training to help staff get set up and gain confidence in using the required systems. You should try to use software that is linked to encourage familiarity, such as Google Mail/Chat/Meet or Microsoft Outlook/Messenger/Teams. Look into training options if you feel your staff would benefit from them.
How can we help?
We offer a range of courses that can help your business and your staff to adapt to the challenges they are currently facing. Our bespoke training is also a great option if you wish to tailor training to suit your exact needs. You could use this route to provide specific training in team working skills, effective communication and COVID-related subjects.
Management and Leadership - we offer a range of courses covering various aspects of leadership. Leading a Remote a Team may be particularly relevant at the moment.
Mental Health - we run courses in Mental Health First Aid and Mental Health First Aid Champions. We can also offer you with bespoke training in this area or you could utilise our professional coaching services.
ICT - we offer many courses in a range of different applications to give you the skills you need. Browse the available courses and keep in mind that we can also offer training tailored to meet your exact requirements.
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