At the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, I wrote a piece about my experience being a remote employee and how that experience could help those transitioning to remote work. As I’m based in the US, and working for a company with offices across the globe, it’s been interesting to see how different parts of the world have been working to combat the spread of the coronavirus and the issues that have arisen, or worsened, because of it.
A diamond is merely a lump of coal that did well under pressure.Unknown
So it’s safe to say that we have all been through a lot, but one of the most endearing qualities of human beings is our ability to manage (for the most part) our resilience. For me, resilience is one of the major themes of 2020. So as people, companies, and countries re-open I wanted to share some thoughts (as an employee) on what is top of mind.
Do I have to return to the office?
Not everyone is going to want to return to the office, and in some cases, they can’t. My situation has actually changed with my recent move, so when offices reopen I’ll be working a hybrid schedule. So before mandating a return to the office, you should be assessing what level of comfort people have with returning and use their feedback to instill more confidence in the process. There are even resources out there to help mitigate hybrid work concerns.
Empathy is critical
Empathy has always been important. What is different about the current state of things is that life for many has been dramatically changed. With these changes also comes a flurry of emotions, and it’s crucial that companies and leaders support their people as they navigate this, and be mindful that we are all dealing with a lot, with some bearing more than others. Sometimes the best distractions are just more (positive) distractions, so creating a space for people to discuss things aside from work can create comradery and connection at a time when it’s needed most.
Make space for conversation
Black Lives Matter, economic disparity, rises in unemployment, and an increased focus on mental health are among some of the topics that are on the front of employees’ minds. As people return to work, employee expectations are going to reinforce the need for more equitable experiences at work. So creating spaces for conversation and action will help employees form a sense of community, and drive the change employees want to see.
Care for those who care for others
Recently, the 2nd largest school district in the US mandated that the rest of 2020 will be remote only for students. Estimations from the past few years find that 25% of Europeans are providing informal care, and in the US the number is approximately 16%. The immense pressure that the pandemic has heaped on parents and caregivers can be partially alleviated by companies and managers by asking what can be done to help them.
Wellbeing for everyone
Wellbeing isn’t a new thing, but it’s become increasingly more important in the hearts and minds of employees. Peakon’s data has found that among Gen Z employees, there was a 28% rise in the discussion on the topic. This growth is more than twice that of Gen X’ers (13%), and more than four times that of the Baby Boomer group, which saw an increase of 6%. Zoom fatigue, lack of social connection, remote workouts, and the increasing amount of takeout food we are consuming all play a part in our mental and physical wellbeing challenges. Prioritising mental and physical health isn’t just the right thing to do, it’s good for business.
Safety above all
No one wants to get sick, and no one wants to be the person who gets others sick. Lessons learned from countries who are turning the page on the pandemic tell us that safety and precautionary measures are the single most important thing impacting people’s ability to return to the office. So take guidance from the CDC, WHO, and any reputable regional resource(s) to know what measures to take to protect employee safety as it varies across different locations.
Double-down on empathy
I would be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge the role of essential works in retail, restaurants, and healthcare. My partner recently began her residency and prompted a move to NYC, and while I cannot speak to the experience of the essential worker on the job I can attest to the stressors that she experiences. I would like to think the above suggestions apply broadly to all roles, but some are impacted more than others. What I can say is, be nice to those who are out there working in the middle of the pandemic. One of my favourite signs that I used to pass in LA simply said, “everyone is dealing with something”. That applies today more than ever. As we all come to terms with changes to our personal and professional lives, we can find strength and support with one another.
Be kind and stay safe!