5 Lessons From Lockdown: From The Inside Out

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Right now, we’re living in very complicated times, facing constant change and many layers that can throw us off balance. It is understandable that we can feel overwhelmed at times.

Even before the COVID-19 crisis, the world was starting to acknowledge the mental burdens and coping challenges required to function effectively. Now that the pandemic has literally taken on a life of its own, it has changed the world and how we live in it. COVID-19 has created an unprecedented disruption worldwide.

Financial uncertainty, health concerns and unpredictable work circumstances are generating stress in the workforce and impacting the workplace. The relationship between employee well-being and organizational health has never been more apparent—or more important.

While organizations could previously stay focused on economic and financial criteria, the emerging workplace cannot ignore human factors and individual welfare. Even those with a strictly business-only attitude now have to address their own personal safety as well as manage (employee and customer) health concerns.

Organizations that understand the connection between employee well-being and organizational well-being are better prepared to address the immediate challenges and longer-term impact of the pandemic crisis.

To help your people engage in their work and invest in your organization’s success means investing in them with activities that support their health, talents and security.

How your business and HR strategies evolve to support employees during quickly changing times is the key to survival. The pandemic experience has shown us that organizations must be more flexible and agile. Here are five lessons I’ve learned during the pandemic.

1. (Re)focus on Performance

The proverbial 9-to-5 job has been forever changed now that most businesses have experienced virtual work. Even reluctant employers who did not previously allow staff to work from home are starting to see its benefits and cost savings. The willingness to use technology and “the cloud” has opened up all sorts of possibilities.

Work performance doesn’t necessarily require an employee to be sitting at their desk in the office. The challenge now isn’t whether we can get more done with less but what we should be getting done. Managers are also realizing that a lot of work can get accomplished with a bit more focus.

Technology plays a key role in assisting the return of employees to work and helping them stay there. We need to use technology more wisely as the COVID-19 pandemic has added new priorities for the workplace and business continuity.

With a shrunken workforce and more fragmented availability, technology plays a critical role in helping get things done. In addition to the ongoing business requirements, employees must figure out how to manage their productivity differently.

2. Separate the Wheat from the Chaff

Employers are noticing that their staff may not need to spend as much time working to get the job done. This realization potentially impacts staffing levels and labour costs in a big way. Separation has either made our hearts grow fonder or more detached about our level of commitment. A lot of folks will not be recalled back to work because their performance was not up to standard when it mattered the most.

In other cases, the employee has taken time to reflect and decides that their job isn’t suitable anymore. While ushered in by unintended circumstances, organizations should take the opportunity to reshuffle resources, change staff and fine tune business processes to improve productivity.

3. Routines and Rituals Are Important

When times are tough, stability grounds us. Resuming regular routines and reinstating rituals brings a sense of normalcy as well as provide employees with something real to follow. These can be simple activities, but they foster calmness and promote a sense of harmony with others. Routines let us know what to expect or what needs to be done, while rituals promote unity and significance.

4. Nurture Resilience

Resilience gives us the ability to recover from difficult experiences, adapt and figure out how to move forward. It also promotes inner growth when we get through the challenge.

How we navigate a crisis such as COVID-19, which has been unpredictable and uncontrollable, depends very much on how resilient we are. This globally significant event has been traumatic and it has taken a mental and physical toll from lockdown to recovery.

The quality of our relationships plays a significant impact on resilience because they form a part of our support system.

By extension, the workplace where many of us spend a lot of time, has either brought out the best or highlighted the worst of our work habits during this pandemic. The unsung stars have stepped up while the slackers and disengaged have fallen away.

5. Find Meaning

The online webinar sphere has exploded in popularity with everyone working from home and needing ongoing stimulation or diversion. With so much going on in the world during this time of change, many folks have been feeling a bit lost. Technology has enabled us to share knowledge through video or just document our thoughts to help put things into perspective. Expressing gratitude and simple gestures to people physically distanced, socially isolated or just in the dumps brought the world closer together.

From Survival to Recovery: A Look Ahead

Business leaders now realize that effective people leaders are more than just emotional barometres for the workplace.

The pandemic crisis has created residual pessimism as a result of unexpected changes, layoffs and restructuring, which have made people feel vulnerable. Instead of the usual frenzy of life activity around our loved ones, households and professional commitments, there is an underlying angst about the future.

The global economic flow has been interrupted beyond just the fear of getting a deadly illness and organizations are starting to appreciate HR’s value from a new perspective. Their soft skills are bringing out the hard truths about the business that need to be addressed.

Self care and mental wellness is the next business innovation. As more establishments re-open and shift from survival to recovery, leaders need to reimagine the future. While there is no one-size-fits-all approach, progressive organizations will question existing assumptions about employees.

If we apply an innovative lens to our mindset by emphasizing mental health and wellness, our organizations will be better, stronger and more nimble. The leadership activities championed by HR need to help employees rebuild confidence.

How employees come out of this period of uncertainty is directly affected by their well-being and the strength of their relationships. Teams with strong bonds will organically be able to access positive synergy to recover faster. Let these times be a conduit to discovery and resilience instead of a reminder of how tough we had it.

 


 

Amelia Chan, CPHR, RCIC is founder and principal consultant of Higher Options Consulting Services (HR-options.com), providing a wide range of HR and immigration services for small to mid-sized businesses.

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