Keep staff communication open

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As we head out of Alert Level 4 and into Level 3, I reflect on the past month. I know that the experiences and challenges I have had – as a business owner, a manager of people and as a working mother – have also been reflected in those around me.

We’ve all had daily challenges, struggles and sometimes wins, trying to keep up with daily routines, communication, business as usual, and home schooling children.

Normal as we know it and probably business as usual – are phrases of the past. As business owners we know we are heading into hard times. As parents trying to home school young children, the hard times are already here.

It’s been a period of adjustment. Flexibility along with adaptability are our new norms. We’ve learnt to get by on the simple things in life. Spend quality and enjoyable time with those in our bubble and we’ve learnt that perhaps we really have been living a somewhat materialistic life and at times the simple enjoyment in life has been overlooked.

But, as the weeks have gone on, it’s certainly got hard – hard to keep the structure, hard to keep leading and hard to keep the momentum.

Our working environment has changed, our jobs have changed and some are finding it difficult to switch off now that work is in the home. This can be stressful, particularly when coupled with additional responsibilities such as caring for dependants.

I feel we are being bombarded from all angles. The online presence that is now expected has become a burden. It’s overwhelming – webinars, strategies for survival, coping during lockdown, etc – the screen time we are now exposed to is huge.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s definitely helpful and needed, it’s just overwhelming. In a time when mentally we are in coping mode, with lives that were already overloaded by social media, websites and apps, it’s now become so much more intense as it is sometimes our only link to the outside world.

Coupled with this intensity there is the worry – the past four weeks has seen sudden changes to our daily life, routines, work, family and social lives.

We are experiencing social isolation, loss of connection, our support networks are no longer there in the same way, and for many there has been a loss of shared purpose. There is also plenty of anxiety and uncertainty around what the future may hold for both business owners and employees.

Recognise that people are going to respond differently to the new working and living environment. We still have responsibilities to the people we lead, even though we may not be in the normal workplace environment. A flexible and lenient approach would be expected where possible, especially as many are managing other responsibilities in the home.

Our responsibilities as employers, addressing the mental health and wellness of our employees, should include having a working from home policy, talking with each employee and making a work from home plan around what is manageable given individual circumstances.

A normal workload may be simply unachievable while working from home, adding more psychological stress to already stressed employees.

What can managers do to support their employees working remotely?

  • Regular team and one-on-one check ins.
  • Provide a work plan and working from home, flexible hours work policy.
  • Leniency and flexibility with consultation.
  • Regular communication.
  • Listen, check in and ask the question – are you ok?
  • Address concerns.
  • Ensure there are clear expectations.
  • Assist where possible with setting up an adequate office environment with access to resources needed to ensure the job can be done.

What can employees do?

  • Try for a daily routine, structure your day, exercise is really important, meal breaks, making time to talk to colleagues, friends and family.
  • Keep communications lines open with your manager.
  • If you are struggling with work, your arrangement at home, completing required hours – again, keep the communication lines open with your manager.

Just remember, for most of us this is uncharted territory – we are all learning as we go and it’s challenging.

Reach out to others, keep communication open and be kind, always.

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About Author

Kellie Hamlett

Director, Recruitment & HR Specialist, Talent ID Recruitment Ltd. She can be contacted on kellie@talentid.co.nz or 027 227 7736

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