It has now been almost one year since the country went into lockdown mode in response to the coronavirus pandemic and while media reports continue of citizens flagrantly contravening government prescribed health protocols, businesses have by and large followed prescribed guidelines.
With hope on the horizon with the 2021 anticipated COVID 19 vaccine distribution but with no clear date in sight for relaxation of health protocols, continued vigilance in the business community has taken its toll.
Employees who work from home continue to juggle work with parental and household responsibilities. Add to this mix, an almost constant accessibility by managers and supervisors through email and videoconferencing seeking to ensure deadlines are met. The results are long days of wearing many hats, ending in exhaustion at night. Employees working at the office or on the road occasionally have lapses in adhering to health protocols as fatigue sets in. Shift workers in particular have had to face ongoing modifications in work schedules with some moving from a 2-daylight, 2-night shift to a full 2-week onsite stint, then 4 days on and 4 days off, all of which create havoc for body rhythms as well as household planning.
With many months before we receive and evaluate the effectiveness of the vaccine, how do businesses and employees cope as we anticipate a return to working and socializing in person?
"...how companies recruit will change as there will be a greater focus on reliability and flexibility as key competencies..."
Business owners are acutely aware now of what is critical for survival, and this will no doubt influence their business models post COVID. In addition to the now firmly cemented and ubiquitous presence of IT systems within almost all businesses, areas where changes are anticipated include:
- Employee Headcount and Expanded Roles – Reduced business activity and the need to manage efficiently quickly identified critical roles, and roles where excess capacity allow for expanded scope of responsibilities. Staff Headcount will in most cases be reduced and Job Descriptions will change.
- Office space – With reduced staffing and where companies may consider onsite presence on a rotation arrangement (with 3 days in office each week for example) there is the question of financial prudence. Renting or sub-letting will be serious options.
- Reliability and Flexibility – how companies recruit will change as there will be a greater focus on reliability and flexibility as key competencies. Leaders have seen the need to be crisis ready – whether there is another virus, economic downturn or the unknown, they must be able to depend on their people to respond to ensure business continuity.
- Managing for Results not Time – Remote work has clearly shown the need for leaders to measure performance not based on the number of hours worked but the output. Performance Measurement and Rewards Systems will need to reflect this singular focus on productivity.
- Supply Chain disruptions – Contingency planning no doubt will be normal business practice.
"HSE and HR departments have been highly responsible in communicating policies and posters on health and safety protocols along with regular reminders. By now, we all know the drill and need to hear something different, something positive."
Crisis Fatigue has set in having had to deal with this stressful situation for a prolonged period.
The psychological impact has taken its toll – remote work, limited interaction with friends and family members, constantly being worried about our loved ones, job security, the additional pressures and time needed for routine tasks like entering our own workplaces and other buildings in addition to protracted turnaround times for basic services like renewal of driver’s permits and other mandatory services. We have become agitated and mentally tired.
HSE and HR departments have been highly responsible in communicating policies and posters on health and safety protocols along with regular reminders. By now, we all know the drill and need to hear something different, something positive.
- Change the narrative – How and what we communicate become so much more important now as we still have a long road ahead to the end of the pandemic. So, why not release some of the pressure? Leaders and employees alike need a boost to the spirit. Try focusing on short term goals and celebrate when these are achieved. This will add some positivity and sense of control over the future albeit the short term.
- Promote the Company's Employee Assistance programme (EAP) – Talking to a trained professional about our frustrations and anxieties is extremely helpful. Pent up feelings or emotions build and instead of disappearing they eventually come out, uncontrolled, and can cause damage to relationships both in the workplace and at home. They can also lead to unhealthy coping habits such as heavy use of drugs and alcohol.
HR departments can actively promote the use of this service to individual employees as well as arrange regular group workshops (virtually and otherwise) on managing stress and requested topics.
- Host Teambuilding Events – Most of us miss seeing and interacting with our colleagues around non-work related topics. Some companies have coordinated virtual baking lessons, all fours competitions, science fairs etc.
- Start moving – we all know that exercise releases endorphins which relieve stress and also frustration.
Encourage employees to start moving for both their physical and mental health.
There are lots of options: If going to the gym is out of the question, simply taking a walk can help.
Use the parks in their neighbourhoods or plug in earphones and jump on the treadmill.
Buy a set of weights, resistance bans or even a skipping rope and get started.
This crisis has taught us the need to adapt and innovate and we have responded swiftly. Now that we have a vaccine on its way, although battle weary, we can make it by taking life one day at a time.