The COVID-19 pandemic and lockdown have changed our lives and the way we do things for good. Leaders had to deal with and become more aware of multiple different aspects since the pandemic started: Working from home. More flexibility. Communication through online platforms. Less control. More trust. New opportunities. Employee health and wellbeing. Financial strain. Stress and emotional wellbeing. Staff morale …
Working from home was probably one of the biggest changes leaders had to face. How do you control a team, be productive, meet deadlines, build team spirit, and communicate when team members are scattered? Communication via online platforms is considered complicated – how do you keep the team’s attention during a meeting or presentation when their children and cat are running around in the background? How do you know they are present at their laptop and not having lunch while their video is off and the sound muted? How do you know they are working and not at the hairdresser?
Many people had to deal with losing loved ones; family members losing their jobs; financial strain not receiving increases or bonuses; fear of losing their jobs, etc. People who live alone or who thrive on social interaction find it difficult to be alone at home all the time. Others find it hard to be productive when their partner is also working from home. Not all ‘home offices’ are well equipped – slow Internet, no aircon, no generators during load-shedding, working at the dining room table. The challenges and the impact on people physically, emotionally and financially are enormous and this certainly impacts people’s performance at work and how they experience work.
Leaders must be conscious and considerate about these challenges. Show more compassion. Communicate more effectively. Have regular casual catch-up sessions with team members and ask how they are doing. Get to understand their fears and challenges and show that you truly care about them and their wellbeing. Introduce employee wellness programmes to support team members on a physical, emotional, and financial level.
Working remotely also create opportunities for employees to accept employment in another city or globally. Retaining good staff will become harder in future. The other side of the coin is also true – offering more flexibility and a better work/life balance are very attractive to a lot of people, and this can be used optimally to motivate and attract good people.
Given all the changes and the impact the past two years had on people’s lives, we also must accept that the way we lead our teams and our organisations must change. Leaders must become more conscious of their teams’ needs within the ‘new normal’.
Accept that change is inevitable and that we need to adapt to this new normal. Find ways to convert the challenges into opportunities. Be more aware. Leaders should focus on implementing incentives to boost performance and creating a work environment where team members can thrive and be happy. Happy and productive teams remain the biggest asset to any organisation.