15 Jun Returning to work Post Covid-19 – What Management need to consider
We have been reflecting upon how our routines and working lives need to change in order to protect us from the virus and accommodate our altered circumstances both physically and psychologically. Something seems to have fundamentally shifted in people’s expectations of their employers; not just in terms of protection from the virus, but also in the power dynamics of the working relationship.
Now that everyone is dealing with highly unusual and particular circumstances and juggling all sorts of extra considerations, there needs to be a great deal of respect, consideration and two-way communication embedded into management’s approach in their effort to get organisations back up and running successfully.
There is a lot of anxiety out there about going back to work and many people are scared of re-entering society while there is still a chance of contracting the Covid-19. The biggest concern is around entering environments where one has little control such as workplaces, shops or on public transport. From a mental health perspective, these issues are an additional burden to people’s already anxious frame of mind as they grapple with the logistics of childcare and the various needs of family members. This fear and uncertainty in people’s lives is being played out in a climate of financial instability and a pressing backlog of life concerns that have been put on hold.
The impact of these months of lockdown has created a myriad of extra demands and unseen pressures for most of us. If some have been able to enjoy the time-out that furlough has afforded, others have been struggling with the pressures of unusual living arrangements and a severe lack of personal space. Many have lost their jobs and incomes while others have been busting a gut working under difficult conditions throughout. Most people are finding this period a strain in one way or another. While things may get back to some sort of normal in the coming months, many people will be dealing with a host of unexpected and unresolved impacts that will take some time to overcome.
There is an opportunity here though; to improve our workplace cultures by changing how we treat and communicate with one another and by getting to know one another better. Bear in mind, that when we do come together again and learn how each other has fared, there is the potential for jealousies and resentments to surface and for fear, insecurity and exhaustion to colour people’s thinking and affect behaviours. Leaders and managers will need to exhibit a high level of social and emotional intelligence to deal with their staff and colleagues as individuals and to find person-centered approaches that work with the individual’s particular capacities and circumstances. They will also need to set out the organisational priorities with clarity and an understanding of the actual human landscape and not a supposed one.
With the challenges around transport, social distancing and cleaning routines, there needs to be a recognition of how much longer everything takes. By implementing more flexible working arrangements and improving communication, the foundations can be laid for creating happier working lives and a healthier work/life balance. In such environments, innovation and creativity thrive and everyone is the better for it. People expect to see these types of positive changes happening in their workplaces, not just during 2020 but also beyond.
The truth is that some workplaces are just awful and cause people a lot of unnecessary pain and distress so a thorough shake-up is well overdue. Even if yours is not one of those, an article by Barry Flack, an HR consultant outlines how ‘we [in the UK] are decades late in coming to realise that our businesses are ill-shaped, hierarchical pits of misery for the command and control addicts’ (Flack, 2020) and that we need to change the systems where HR teams are propping up ‘the old toxic workplace habits and rituals’ (Flack 2020). He proposes that our workplaces ‘be organised on a decentralised basis and have broad principles in place underpinning a fair and trusting relationship with its highly talented, well-intentioned people’ (Flack, 2020). We couldn’t agree more and hope also that kindness and patience become the two most frequently used tools in our manager’s toolboxes.
Written by MHScot Team Member, Sonia Last
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