While employees in many countries have been working virtually for some time, the COVID-19 pandemic forced us almost overnight to change how we live and work. Additional turmoil in American society related to civil rights and the economic recession is making an already difficult situation that much harder for employees struggling to focus on day-to-day work responsibilities.
Each employee is handling this experience in a unique way. Some are juggling work with taking care of young children, while others may be months into near-total isolation. Successful managers need to be able to recognize the disparate challenges employees are facing, even if their own experience is quite different.
Merriam-Webster defines “sympathy” as sharing the feelings of another person, while “empathy” is having the capacity to imagine feelings you may not actually have. It’s important to find out each employee’s situation and interact accordingly, swapping similar stories if possible, while lending an ear to those whose situation may be in total opposition to your own.
Employers are already seeing how emotional well-being is factoring into their workforce’s ability to perform under stress. Lead with understanding and forgiveness—if individual productivity has decreased a bit, recognize your team may be mentally and emotionally exhausted. (Luckily, fears about long-term productivity loss haven’t materialized, as evidenced by the growing number of CEOs who are planning “work from anywhere” policies.) Channel your inner empathetic Mr. Rogers instead of rigid Mary Poppins.
In addition to being empathetic toward the struggles of their employees, managers should also examine their own mental and emotional well-being. Creating a healthy workforce requires managers to first take care of themselves. To paraphrase the airlines, you need to put on your own oxygen mask before you put one on your child.
Information workers especially find it easy to blur work/life, forgetting to take breaks, meals, and showers. They often end up working long hours to compensate for productivity-sapping distractions. Scheduling blocks of time for personal tasks and wellness to cover your own requirements will make you better prepared to help others.
Recommendations for Helping Teleworkers
Here are five recommendations for Human Resources managers and team leads to follow when trying to help employees adjust to the challenges of their new teleworking culture:
1. Provide support, check in, and listen to employees. A quick “how are you feeling?” goes a long way. Ensure employees know what mental health resources are available and how to access them. Check back occasionally to monitor status, but be careful not to do it so frequently that employees feel smothered or untrusted. Find out if setting up regular check-ins would be of interest…
Source: HR Daily Advisor