As a result of the on-going pandemic leaders of many organizations are struggling to ensure the safety, health and wellbeing of their employees. Based upon survey data, outlined below are five challenges that managers are facing today along with recommendations to address these demands.
Managing Remote Work
Managers in pre-COVID times were able to walk down the hall to meet with their staff, support their efforts and provide their subordinates with task direction. With the need to offer employees a safe work environment many employers determined that employees needed to work from home. Working from home created an environment where structure was often lacking, IT support limited, and business practices were imperfect. Managers and leaders of organizations over the past 14 months have learned that responding to the needs of the employees swiftly along with providing support to make this transition as easy as possible needed to occur. What this means is that when employees reach out for assistance, managers need to respond with an action-oriented plan. Whether it is dealing with a systems issue, customer support or logistics challenges managers need to respond and rectify any issues.
Ensuring Effective Employee Communication
Communication during the best of times has always been a significant handicap for many employers. With many employees working remotely communication is not as effective nor as complete as it needs to be. Communication with employees working from home is often one-way, not consultive or as collaborative as is necessary. While efficiency and the use of technology (Teams, WebEx and Zoom) are valuable tools they do not replace one-on-one conversations with the staff. Often times these tools are used to communicate tasks and strategy but not individual work challenges. Managers need to ensure that their subordinates have quality one-on-one time to address specifical work issues and impediments to success. The ability to walk down the hall and obtain direction will at some point return; however, in the interim managers need to carve out time for direct communication with their staff.
One of the consequences of the pandemic has been the loss of job stability and security. Initially, millions of employees lost their job, the social and financial safety net was lacking, and government programs were stretched to the maximum. Over the past 14 months many employees have returned to their old jobs; however, many remain unemployed, and their job has been eliminated or their employer has ceased to exist. A manager’s role during this uncertain time is to reassure their staff, be transparent in financial health of the organization and explain to the employees what their role currently is and how their job might change in the future. Honesty and sincerity are critical to alleviating an employee’s fear of job insecurity.
The sudden shift in work culture over the past year has taken a tremendous toll on the employee’s overall health and wellbeing. The social aspect of work, ability to share business and personal challenges with colleagues has been replaced by on-line meetings that lack an exchange of support and empathy. Employees feel less inclined to share their successes and challenges when the format is not conducive to maintaining privacy. Managers need to check in with their staff to find out what is happening not only on the work front but also on the personal side. Find out how the employees is handling their isolation from their co-workers, have they experienced any issues around “loss” or illness. Managers need to be prepared to provide resources to their staff to address any health or wellbeing issues.
Engaged employees are committed to their organization’s goals and values, they are motivated to contribute to organizational success, and are able at the same time to further enhance their own sense of purpose. With employees working remotely, insufficient communication tools, job insecurity, workforce wellbeing issues; and employee engagement has suffered. While some industries have flourished and grown over the past 14 months, many employees have experienced a significant disconnect between their support for the company and their colleagues. Managers need to make a concerted effort to work with staff to listen, address and resolve their challenges. Mangers will also need to address the topic of when “normalcy” returns what do employees envision as their work environment of the future. Engage employees to determine how they want to work in the future. Do they want to return to the office permanently, partially or intermittently? Listening to the staff and incorporating their ideas as part of an overall policy will improve employee engagement and general support for organizational success.