Here we go again! Working From Home (or as it now seems to me – Living At Work) is going to be in place a lot longer than we had hoped. We have to forget about it being temporary and get used to the idea that it is the current way of working.
For our brief return to the office, the focus was on physical health and safety: marking out workspaces, not sharing equipment and the provision of hand sanitiser everywhere. As work slowly became the only place we could socialise, we really enjoyed being back together, talking face to face and sharing experiences.
Now we are back at home without the summer sun and walks after work and the focus has had to turn to mental health and coping strategies. As a leader it is your duty to look after your team and if you do it with compassion and empathy, your business will reap the rewards.
So, ask your team members what worked well for them when they last worked at home and what needs to be changed this time. Act on their input. Don’t just assume they will slide straight back into the old arrangements. It’s different for everyone now the novelty has worn off.
As a leader you’ll need to communicate up your communications game. Significantly.
Although giving precise information is necessary, the skill is not simply to over-communicate but to BUILD TRUST. Mansplaining or micro managing may get you your project outcome in the short term, but it doesn’t set your team member up to produce high quality work in the future. You’ll also have to work with the communication preferences of each worker. This means taking the time to find out who’s comfortable with being on speakerphone, who hates being on video calls, who likes to talk at 6 AM and who can’t be reached after 6 PM.
If your communication is not successful, don’t just repeat it all, but louder. Try to find out why the person hasn’t done what you expected. What barriers have blocked their path? What tools or resources did they not have in place?
Don’t dismiss mental health issues as rare or ‘snowflakey’. In fact, in any given year - not just in 2020, 1 in 4 people will experience a mental health problem. All organisations need to take action to address these issues since 1 in 6 workers are affected by conditions like anxiety and depression (i.e. a diagnosable mental illness).
That means its likely that at least a couple of people in your team are suffering right now – this year it’s likely to be many more.
The earlier you notice that an employee is experiencing mental health difficulties the better. Early action can help prevent them becoming more unwell. You don’t have to understand the diagnosis – just identify and address the barriers in their working life. And ensure their working time doesn’t prevent them taking care of themselves.
There are also many actions you can take to reduce stigma around mental health and promoting more positive messages.
If you would like to learn the steps, make the moves and take the leap into a better way of working contact firstname.lastname@example.org
NHS Choices 2015 -10 medical reasons for feeling tired