Life in Lockdown - Living the Reality

Missing your work mates?

Me too.

For many people their daily goal in going to work is not just to earn a pay packet, but to see their colleagues, socially interact and to feel a sense of self-worth that only a peer group can offer.

You cannot underestimate the impact of the loss of social interaction. Human beings are fundamentally social creatures and the loss of a structured working day with other people can be devastating. 

There are many individuals mourning for the life we knew – and are ill-prepared for the life we have and uncertain about the life emerging.  Especially when working from home, people may be isolating but also feel very isolated.  The situation has brought about a platitude of ‘losses.’  These come in many forms: loss of financial stability (just because you know your employee is ok, doesn’t mean to say their partners workplace is), loss of routine, structure, friendship, opportunity, freedom, sleep, the list goes on.

They may have increased responsibility at this time: looking after other members of the family, trying to home school children, dealing with elderly parents, caring for poorly relatives.

And so peoples coping mechanisms manifest in different ways: people appear quieter, troubled, easily alarmed, even panicking and being paralysed to do routine tasks that they would not have had to think about previously.

Being at home can also be taking a toll on managers.  They may feel as though they are losing their identity (especially if their role was a supervisory or operational manager) as they are not ‘visibly face to face’ every minute of the day with the people to whom they are responsible.  (Notice that I deliberately inferred the manager being responsible to their direct reports? – that was deliberate, think about that for a moment). 

As an employer, you have a duty of care to recognise this.  And it’s tough, as you might be experiencing your own loss during isolation.

So how can you help?

People need to know what they are expected to be doing now and what will likely come next. Without this information they may become anxious, fearful of the consequences which impacts on their productivity and, in turn, results in them being unable to concentrate.  This leads to mistakes being made and balls being dropped.  Being anxious can result in members of the team becoming irrational and illogical.  This behaviour can be misinterpreted as people being difficult or arrogant, when really, they are just scared, lonely and stressed.  People are vulnerable and their mental well-being may be more fragile than you think. 

Whether your team are working from home or entering the workplace with appropriate social distancing measures in place, you can recognise the grief-loss that ne working arrangement s brings.  Think about implementing the following:

  • A twice daily huddle for 5 minutes may be better than a one hour call
  • Encourage individuals to get outside (play with the kids, walk the dog, sit in the garden/park) – let them know you don’t consider this as ‘time wasting’ (their best and most creative ides will come to them when they are allowed to relax – this could be great for the business)
  • Don’t try to micromanage their work, assignments or day – I can guarantee that most people are working their socks off from home rather than shirking responsibilities
  • Encourage ‘virtual coffee breaks’ between colleagues – you don’t have to do this as a team but make sure they know it’s ok to use your videoconferencing facilities if they want to set themselves up
  • Check in with the one’s you don’t hear from – just to make sure they are ok rather than to ask them if they have completed the work you have given them
  • Sing their praises – either with a personal ‘thank you,’ a team message or with a shout out on your social media channels
  • Take the opportunity to do some one-to-one’s if people are up for it or mini training sessions online

Do you have any top tips for coping? Welcoming comments below.