This September feels different…
I always love the change of season and the anticipation of change for many of us, as we start to focus on what we wanted to accomplish this year. Typically, the kids are ready for school, and the vacation mindset of summer is replaced by a real drive to get back to work. As a mom of two teenagers, early September is always a tough balancing act, with back to school nights clashing with client visits and conferences. I usually am spending more time on planes versus my desk, and there are always a few late nights ordering school supplies and doing school paperwork.
But not this year.
Some of us are going back to work or back to school. Some are not. Some want to be working from home but need to start to return to the office. Some crave to be back with their co-workers and leaders in person, but they are not able to be back together. Regardless of the situation, it feels different. The need to manage yourself, your peers, your personal life, and your employees can feel overwhelming as the world as we know it remains very unpredictable. What you can do it focus on the 4 C’s.
We must find a way to balance our business needs with continued support and understanding for our employees. Weddings have been postponed or canceled, funerals are limited to small groups, and each parent has to make difficult decisions based on their local school system. Parents need to make some choices, and managers need to appreciate the added stress this puts on families with kids of all ages. The current atmosphere of flexibility during the summer likely needs to be redefined to provide employees the support they need while meeting the business’s demands.
It’s reported that 5 million employees are currently working from home; that’s 3.6% of the American workforce. The pandemic has forced organizations and their workers into their homes, with a new dependence on technology, to get jobs done. While initially (for those that were new to the remote working or work from home lifestyle), this prospect was quite exciting – no commutes, more time to spend with your loved ones, and countless lunch options. But for others who live alone, have young children or older parents, there is no break. We go from the laptop to the kitchen and back until the day comes to an end, and you can still wonder what you accomplished. It’s becoming more apparent that being away from the office is starting to influence how we work and how we feel about our careers.
Employees may be living alone and working remotely. Supporting them and acknowledging the challenges of their situation is as essential as working parents. Remember, flexibility for one employee who wants to finish their work in the evening can put pressure on another who has been sitting at their home office since 7 am and doesn’t want to respond after 5 pm. Some of us will be managing pick up and drop off throughout the day, and our clients and our employers will need to understand and trust we will not let them down. It won’t be neat and tidy, but it will be necessary to succeed.
2. Communicate. Encourage a work-life balance.
Employers and those in management positions must stress the value of a work-life balance, now more than ever. Encourage your employees to get out for a walk on lunch, talk about what you’ve done at weekends, and ensure that employees know that just because work has crept into their personal space, it shouldn’t take over their personal lives.
Working from home means it’s harder for employees to unplug and switch off. If we don’t have the luxury of a home office that we can shut the door to, our work is quite literally in front of us, and it’s harder to distance yourself from it. I’ve done zoom calls with clients sitting on their kid’s beds, sitting in the car, or not sitting at all. There’s nothing to stop employees replying to an email late at night or just finishing a task after working hours, which ends up taking longer than expected. The boundaries that remained between work and life have almost entirely disappeared, which will take a toll on mental health. It’s been widely reported that we’re all working longer days (3 hours longer on average, to be exact), and problems like burnout and stress are rising.
Employers have a duty to support their employees, whether or not they are in the office. Just because you don’t see your team having problems doesn’t mean they don’t happen. Being a supportive employer enhances your employer brand, improves your employee retention rates, and creates a better company culture for all, even when working remotely.
Be clear as to what we are asking of our teams and ourselves. Share the financial goals you need to meet as a business and explain what it will take to get there, even in uncertain times. Clarity is critical in uncertain times. The job market is inconsistent. Tech hiring remains competitive, while retail, service, and even healthcare roles are being cut consistently. Hiring for teachers is out of the cycle, making it stressful as many teachers need to agree to work in a classroom or leave a district. Our own talent acquisition industry is seeing changes in the desire to outsource and build out quick project teams instead of the robust HR/TA Center of Excellence models seen only a year ago.
Each leader must have the courage to make the right decision for the business, their employees and themselves. It won’t be the same as a year ago, but what we have learned during this time is that we all need to be brave enough to adapt to a changing world. The way we work is changing permanently. If you can find the courage to take care of yourself, your family, your co-workers, and clients, you will have the best opportunity for success during this change of the season.
If you’d like some guidance about supporting your employees through this crisis, from redefining your leadership styles to internal communications our team are happy to help. Get in touch today to start your conversation.