Last year, we all scrambled to get the pandemic induced lockdown right. We were on top of virtual socialising and connection through virtual lunchrooms and virtual drinks.
We scheduled multiple meetings and check-in points throughout the week, and we were solving operational problems and adapting them to the remote working environment. It was all new and we approached it with a sense of purpose and problem-solving.
Instead of taking the same initiative in strategically planning the workforce throughout this extended lockdown, we have adopted the very Australian mentality of ‘she’ll be right’.
Many are relying on the assumptions that ‘we know what to do to continue business as usual because we’ve been through it before’, and on an operational level this may be true.
However, we have experienced an exponential increase in bullying and harassment complaints as well as higher rates of reported deteriorating mental health.
While we know remote working has amazing benefits for employees and businesses when situations like lockdowns dictate the reason for remote working, we have to be aware of external pressures on employees, and how this impacts them on a day to day basis.
While businesses operational functions can be done remotely, we have to be wary of our internal communication and people strategy across teams and departments in order to maintain a connection with employees.
This is extremely critical in remote working situations as we are relying on individual interpretation of tone and meaning of emails and written communications, as well as having a poorer ability to decode body language and tone through virtual communications.
Throw in lagging internet connection and you’ve got a recipe for bad interpretation. Increases in poor mental health and bullying claims do not only affect the individual employees.
It affects the whole business ecosystem and puts a wheel lock on your businesses momentum and growth. We need to be aware of our employees’ wellbeing throughout this extended pandemic if we want to see our businesses continue to flourish throughout uncertainty.
Pointers to employees coping in lockdown
Overreacting to feedback
We are usually quite familiar with how our employees would react to regular feedback on projects or deliverables. A key indicator to understanding your employees’ state of wellbeing is watching for out-of-character behaviours and responses to feedback.
Throughout remote working, it is extremely important that leaders also adapt the way that feedback is provided, as the environment we are working in now is not ‘normal’ for everyone.
Not contributing during meetings or not being available
In person it can be easier to share and speak up in meetings as we use a range of different senses and techniques to ‘read the room’ and find the best place to interject.
The dynamic is different, and it can be harder for employees to feel confident speaking up, meaning virtual meetings will usually have less engagement than in-person meetings.
However, if you begin noticing an employee deliberately not contributing or no longer conversing in their usual manner, it may be time to have a check in with them and find out if they need more support from the business.
Defensive behaviour stems from a place of insecurity and vulnerability.
When you notice your employee becoming more defensive than usual during conversation and feedback, it might be a warning sign that they are not coping well in these extreme situations.
Not meeting deadlines and making mistakes
Poorer focus and higher levels of procrastination can be indicators of mental ill-health.
When an employee starts to look like they are slacking off a bit, rather than jumping to the conclusion that their ‘heart isn’t in it’ anymore, you need to look a bit deeper and begin to have real and honest conversations with them.
Most of the time employees are craving higher connection, support and value from their workplace, especially while working remotely.
Vague and disconnected
It’s easy to feel a little disconnected while working remotely, however when an employee purposefully ‘disconnects’ from conversations, we need to stop making assumptions on why this may be and start making a conscious effort to reconnect with them.
Having strategic internal communications and people plan in place is key to ensuring your employees are thriving and performing throughout this pandemic.
But most importantly, we need to be more aware of the warning signs that our employees may not be coping with as well as we thought.
Katriina Tahka CEO at A Human Agency – AHA. Katrina is an HR guru with a special interest in business’ success through empowering teams. CEO + Founder of A-HA, Katriina is passionate about building inclusive workplaces where all people thrive and realise their full potential.