I’ve been thinking a lot about how the world of work has changed. No matter where you work or what you do, there’s no denying that things look different up ahead.
For leaders, the way you used to lead is changing.
The employee experience has shifted.
After the intense and panicky early days of the pandemic, things gradually began to fall into a new rhythm. Even if the stress of working from home with the kids, or being an essential worker who relies on transit is still stressful, there is a new sense of “the way it is.”
There’s a bit of boredom at play, a restlessness, a sense of malaise for many. I see it in several clients I’m working with.
One client, a senior HR leader, is really struggling with this underlying anxiety. The kids are out of school and there’s no camp to keep them busy while she works. The meetings keep getting booked. She worries more when she doesn’t hear from her boss as frequently, concerned it might indicate a problem. She cringes when she hears the senior management team talking about “the need to just get on with it.”
She also sees that the leaders she supports are feeling this malaise as well, and it’s hampering their ability at times to manage their own stress and therefore help their employees navigate through this strange time in history.
It’s tough being stuck in the middle sometimes.
Now, it's been reported that employee engagement has actually increased during the pandemic in North America. In April, Josh Bersin (a Talent and HR Consulting firm) put it this way: “It took a global health crisis for business and HR leaders to wake up to the fact that when people don’t feel safe, supported, or emotionally secure, they simply cannot do their jobs. “
But there’s the dark cloud forming on the horizon. The dreaded likely second wave of Covd-19.
The possibility of a second wave and indications that restrictions will remain in place for an extended timeframe, means that the underlying anxiety is starting to bubble to the surface again.
Now, it’s not back up to March levels. But it does mean that leaders and organizations can’t take their foot off the gas and become complacent.
If ever there were a time to over-communicate, it’s now.
Keep connected. People interpret silence or slower trickles of communication negatively. They fear secrets are being kept, poor decisions made. So keep connected - regularly and frequently.
Don’t under-estimate the importance of context. Work to get the context YOU need, and provide as much context as you can to your employees, your colleagues, your leaders. Context helps us accept decisions and change more easily. It also helps us feel less isolated and more a part of a larger whole because we’re in the know.
Continue to be genuinely interested in people’s well-being. The biggest positive change during this period has been that many leaders changed how they interacted with their teams. No longer transactional or straight to business. The need to be relational was finally recognized. So keep asking people how they are feeling, how they and their families are doing. We are all dealing with the effects of the current situation in different ways. Some people are just fine. Some were finally feeling calmer, and now the talk of a second wave is drumming up new worry. When we have a chance to share where we are at, and have our feelings acknowledged, we are able to “get on with things” because those feelings are no longer swirling around below the surface, distracting us.
How are YOU feeling these days about the current state of work and what lies ahead?