- Go gently during on your team during this transition time
It goes without saying that we have all been through a lot this past year and still are and many of your employees may be exhausted, anxious or grieving. Everyone’s experience of this pandemic has been different. Some employees will have worked throughout, or at different times and some may have experienced anxiety and boredom whilst at home on Furlough. Whilst everyone’s experience will be different everyone will have been impacted in some way.
As we return to the “new normal” allowing employees some latitude and offering support for any mental health issues which may have arisen will be important. Any pending or ongoing disciplinary or grievance procedures should be carefully and sensitively planned and adapted to ensure that adjustments are made to take account of the employee’s current wellbeing. Communication during this time will be crucial as will access to appropriate support. If you do not offer mental health support directly nor have an occupation health team it would be advisable to research local services and make your employees aware of these. If an employee makes you aware of mental health issues they are having seek legal advice on whether the Equality Act is engaged, as their condition may be a disability for the purpose of this Act, and therefore whether you need to make reasonable adjustments to the employees working hours, equipment or duties. Some useful services are outlined on the Mind website here. I think it would be advisable to hold a risk assessment for every employee to assess whether and what support they might need at this time.
- Adjust Expectations
When your employees return to work, or if they have been working throughout, don’t forget that they have been coping with a whole host of additional stressors to those they would normally be dealing with. As such if your company sets targets or you have an employee on a PIP take account that their performance may be less than usual and adjust your expectations accordingly. This is not to say that a certain level of performance cannot be expected, but the reality is that all of us are still coping with more than normal levels of stress. If an employee is usually a top performer, they will likely return to being so again. It would be short sighted to impose fresh or new pressures on employees who usually perform well in these circumstances.
- Encourage Self-Care in Your Workplace
Focusing on healthy self-care behaviours — eating well, exercising, staying connected with friends, avoiding “doomscrolling” — can all go a long way towards your team feeling more grounded. One of the biggest self-care priorities should be sleep, suggests Kenneth Wright, PhD, professor of integrative physiology at the University of Colorado Boulder and director of the Sleep and Chronobiology Laboratory there.
“Insufficient sleep duration and changes in sleep schedules are very common right now,” he says. It can affect mood and immune health. Sticking to a sleep routine can also help lower stress and keep you feeling energized throughout the day, bolstering the resiliency that might have been dwindling otherwise.”
If you have never discussed such matters with employees, and I suspect many employers don’t, I would encourage you have a team meeting about self-care and ask your team how they look after themselves and how you can support them to as we ease back to work.
This doesn’t mean delving too deeply into your employee’s lives, but encouraging healthy living is a great way to show that you care and to see if anyone is neglecting themselves. It may also foster a greater sense that you are all “in this together.”
- Get Help if and When You Need It
Also, if you feel like you could benefit from professional help then it is crucial that you reach out. Therapists of all kinds are doing telehealth appointments right now and you may need just a few sessions or even one to feel like you’re getting a reset.
“Pandemic fatigue is real, and the way it affects you will likely be unique because you have a specific set of challenges. It can feel like too much. And sometimes, just acknowledging that can help.”
If you are responsible for your team members it is important that you also look after yourself first and set a good example. Many senior managers excel at taking care of their teams but fail to stop the signs that they too need help.
If you would like to chat through anything in this article or would like further advise, do call or email – we are here to help.