Create Calm in this Stormy Time of Unknowns
It seems a good many organizations and employees are confusing reopening with returning to normal. Acting as though COVID is behind us. Sure, it’s tough keeping a safe physical distance. Eating alone instead of lunching with clients or colleagues. Washing hands almost obsessively.
It’s easy to forget about the past several months and all those sacrifices we made to flatten the contagion’s spread. But letting down our guard opens us up to a whole heap of trouble. In the first week of August, the U.S. hit 5 million confirmed cases of coronavirus, the scourge of American businesses and workers anxious to resume where pre-COVID times let off.
WHO Committee Chair Dr. Tedros recently referred to the pandemic as “a once-in-a-century health crisis, the effects of which will be felt for decades to come. Many countries that believed they were past the worst are now grappling with new outbreaks. Some that were less affected in the earliest weeks are now seeing escalating numbers of cases and deaths.”
And on top of a health crisis that pretty much derailed medical treatments and mental health services, it’s clear we’re now witnessing social, economic and political COVID fallout.
It’s been a sobering few months. Although we’d like to think the end is in sight, we don’t really know that it is. And that single factor alone, that unknowing, can be a huge source of stress.
As employers, we have a responsibility to our people
We need to keep safeguards in place. To keep monitoring how everyone in our offices and plants, out in the field and working from home are managing.
Falling back into a “business as usual” mode-of-thinking can be alienating, divisive, and ultimately disengaging for even the strongest of our rock star performers.
Social interactions at the workplace, for instance, might be creating a false sense of security for some, while causing alarm for others worried about bringing the virus into their home and infecting susceptible family members.
Employees have a responsibility to their places of work too
Steve Joordens, a psychology professor at the University of Toronto points to the uncertainty of “social bubble” practices versus the sense of security when we were under lockdown in our own places. “We’re all gambling with other people’s money to an extent,” he says. “One big anxiety-inducing issue is not knowing whether it’s safe to visit grandparents or family if your bubble has expanded and you feel like somebody else in the bubble is not taking things seriously — and they’re thereby endangering everyone in your bubble.” It may be that our work bubbles need a rethink.
Then there’s the issue of face mask fatigue and sheer discomfort. Sharing tips from the likes of the American Academy of Dermatology can help everyone play their part. Tips like: using a moisturizer immediately before putting the mask on and after taking it off, using petroleum jelly on lips, washing the face daily and applying moisturizer immediately afterward, skipping makeup, taking a 15-minute break from the mask every four hours, and regularly hand-washing cloth masks with hypoallergenic detergent.
A Shared Responsibility
In this new bewildering world employers and employees, both have a responsibility to one another. And those more at ease than most, need clear reminders of how their social interactions can potentially put themselves and others at risk.
Pulse surveys can serve as indirect subtle reminders while also gathering insights in real-time around the sentiments of your people and the health of your organization.
What are employees thinking and feeling about statements like:
- My stress levels at work are manageable/healthy
- I intend to be working at this company a year from now
- I have a healthy work/life balance
- I feel optimistic about the future
You can customize pulse surveys to convey your culture. Create questions specific to these uncertain times. Choose from multiple choice, drop-down, Yes/No and open-ended response options. Use natural language processing to make sense of open-ended comments. And focus attention, efforts and initiatives on areas where it clearly matters most.
Above all else, measuring, tracking and sharing today’s real-time attitudes around Health & Wellness and Health & Safety factors reminds everyone (not just leaders, managers and HR) that a little bit of precautionary consideration can go a long way towards creating a better employee experience while establishing our workplaces as beacons of calm in this stormy time of unknowns.