How is your workplace doing in the face of Covid-19?
Today I arrive to work and there is a skeleton staff at work. Many parents are choosing to not send their children to school to err on the safe side. This means that many parents are also choosing to stay at home with their children instead of going to work.
If you have been following the news you will know that this Monday morning will be unprecedented. It will be unlike any other Monday morning in the history of our modern working world.
This Monday morning many are wondering if they will remain employed, be laid off temporarily, or if their industries will survive the economic and social distance impact of covid-19.
As we are asked to stay home if we have signs of flu like symptoms, many are staying home out of fear of being contaminated. Many parents though are expected to work from home while they care for their children, which can result in more distractions and errors, and result in more irritation, long hours and overwork.
In a society where our children have been socialized to expect to be entertained. The added closures of amusements and social activities are causing many parents to stress as they scramble to find ways to entertain children without access to libraries, museums, and public pools that are now closed. Parents now find themselves choosing to stay home with busy children who need to be entertained while they try to concentrate on getting work done.
The pressure on parents who must report to work but do not have childcare is another quandary. Now that social isolation is an issue, they are advised to not have their children visit grandparents who are high risk for this virus, in case their children are healthy carriers. Not only is this putting strain on family’s social activities, but it is also affecting their ability to socialize with friends and family members they once were able to visit or even send the kids over for a breather.
While employers are thinking of creative ways to still make the payroll, employees are stressed about the possible isolation of working at home. Not having the ability to seek out their colleague’s opinion or to speak to them face to face or across the cubicle will have a social and emotional and interpersonal impact on most at work.
As a leader, you should be more mindful of heightened emotions, distress, anxiety, irritability and an escalation in interpersonal conflicts. Instead of panicking, view this as an opportunity to prepare your employees to face difficult times.
As we each do our part to flatten the curve of this virus, many are making references to the Spanish Flu of 1918, which infected approximately a third of the world’s population at that time. Given the information and technology we have now, we must use this advantage to curb the impact of covid-19 emotionally and interpersonally.
Here are some interpersonal wellness tips to soften the impact of social distancing at work, as we each take steps to reduce the spread of this virus:
- If you are working in a skeleton office, pay attention to your co-workers’ preferences for social distance
- Be respectful and reduce making light of the situation as not everyone has the same tolerance levels
- If your co-workers are stuck with having to stay home because their children have no school, refrain from making comments to them enjoying or shirking their responsibilities
- Help co-workers who must stay home feel a part of the team by sharing ideas via e-mail or other project management tools available
- Find ways to share your experiences that are not too graphic and distressing for others
- If you suddenly find yourself as a digital leader, don’t panic. You can still lead employees who are not in the same building as you. Start by asking them what’s working for them and what they will need from you as all transition to this new normal
- If you are trying to speak to co-workers and there is a lot of background noise, children talking TV play, be patient with them and kindly suggest that you are not able to engage fully with the background noise. It’s possible that they may have become immune to it.
- If you are working from home for any reason, please ensure you find a quiet spot even if it’s the bathroom to participate in meetings. It’s important that your colleagues to see you as engaged and focused on work during the times you are talking to them.
- If you overhear a colleague grumble, yell or complain about their children, be gracious it may be just the impact of cabin fever. Ask if they want to talk about it, listen and offer suggestions if they give you permission to do so. Don’t judge.
- If you notice a co-worker of colleague refusing to maintain the necessary social distance be direct and let them know what you feel comfortable with and ask if they could respect it. Don’t push shove or name call as we are all just learning this new normal.