How managers can lead through the work-life imbalance caused by the pandemic.
With the current pandemic, economic crisis and social injustice not just occurring only in the workplace, employees have been experiencing work-life imbalance. The workplace and home have become one and the same for many. Staying safe no matter where they find themselves is crucial as the impact physically and mentally is more apparent. This means managers need to lead with greater focus on the wellbeing of their team members. Several different work scenarios have impacted how we work in the last few years, presenting challenging workplace circumstances for managers. Some of those have included:
∎ WORKING FROM HOME
Whether with others or alone, working from home poses challenges. If employees have children, they are home from school and require support. School is in sessions as the workday begins. That is not different but what has changed is all of it is happening under one roof, using one internet source, and requiring parental support, depending on the age of the children. Employees are experiencing another level of stress that may be displayed in multiple ways. The pandemic limits the number of outlets anyone can have to separate themselves, exercise, entertain, enjoy adult time, plan activities for the kids, and take vacations. In essence, people are living, working, ‘staycationing’, and existing in the same square footage with no options. There is no distinction between the workplace and being at home to experience any downtime.
∎ GOING TO WORK
Some roles are essential and cannot be modified for remote work. Employees in essential roles are rightfully concerned with protecting themselves to stay employed and not be exposed to the virus, thereby exposing their loved ones at home. Mentally, they are trying to focus on getting the work done and not be stressed about putting their lives in jeopardy. Those working as first responders are in direct contact with those infected and overwhelmed with the lives lost.
∎ DISPLACED WORKERS
Many have lost their jobs. Others have been forced to leave their jobs to care for their children, parents or other loved ones that have had their care options limited due to adversely high risk. Almost a year later, some are still unemployed and tasked with seeking employment assistance when the global pandemic is at an all-time high and deadlier than the previous outbreak. Others are seeking a new career path that has its own set of hurdles to overcome.
Managers are employees facing the same challenges provided above, yet developing solutions, experiencing the pressures to produce at the same levels as pre-pandemic, and addressing the needs of their team. The norm, but on steroids. Imagine every emergency, contingency and risk mitigation plan tried, tested and some failed, under your watch. The core leadership principles are truly being put to the test. Managers need to inspire the team, stay engaged, act and achieve results despite the conditions.
The need to succeed despite the odds never had a greater meaning. A recent study by American analytics and advisory company Gallup gathered the input of Chief Human Resource Officers from the world’s largest organizations who provided some key elements to lead during COVID-19. It is important for managers at all levels to keep the organization going by moving the focus from fear and uncertainty to a strategy encompassing the following elements:
Managers gain trust by doing what they say they are going to do. Employees need direction from someone who is predictable and reliable. That builds and maintains trust with leadership. Protecting the health of everyone during an economic crisis can increase the need to prioritize and put a strain on achieving results. It is important for management to not put the need of the business ahead of the individuals that work to achieve results for them daily.
Stability comes when trust has been established in the organization. Physical and psychological safety are needed to support employees. During the greatest health threat of all time, employees need to see and experience the support of their managers. That means ensuring they are working in a safe workplace and have the equipment they need to protect themselves. Adjusting budgets to ensure this happens is of the utmost importance.
Provide compassion in how you manage. Make it more impactful by aligning the structure of the organization through standard operating procedures and policies. In other words, put what you say in writing. Walk the talk and let your employees know you are committed in word and deed. Show care and concern for the needs of your employees. This strengthens the relationship between employee and manager.
Keeping employees inspired to a better tomorrow while encouraging them is important. Communicate and celebrate small wins. Focus on what is going well and what employees need to repeat to keep the momentum going. Keeping your followers engaged and performing happens when they see the commitment of the organization. Increasing resilience by overcoming challenges collectively helps employees work more cohesively together. Hope is the final element that is a culmination of the previous three being present in the organization through the actions of the managers.