Helping employees stay focused during these challenging and uncertain times
On the whole, people have been resilient and adaptive, rising to the challenges both in work and our personal lives. Technology has enabled new ways of working and communicating which has meant many companies have been able to continue operating with increased social distancing in the workplace and often with many, or even all, of its employees working from home.
On the surface these new ways of working may appear to be running well but as time goes on new challenges present themselves such as dwindling levels of employee engagement and commitment. In other words, a progressive loss of focus that is detrimental to a business.
Managers and leaders play a key role in setting the emotional climate of the workgroup. During uncertain times, it’s more important than ever to set a positive tone and to create an environment where employees feel supported and committed to their work. Here are action steps you can take to support your staff through challenging and uncertain times to help them maintain focus:
1) Make wellbeing and safety the number one priority
These are some of the most stressful and difficult times and this can take its toll on mental health, so take every step possible to reduce fear and anxiety. Ensure working environments are as safe as possible and an Employee Assistance Program or adequate support is in place. Moreover, offer guidance and advice on how to minimise the risks to physical health posed by increasingly sedentary lifestyles which are affecting many who are working more from home.
2) Morale and happiness are key drivers of corporate success
The old adage that a happy worker is a productive worker still holds true and these days for many there is little to smile or laugh about. Life may have become mundane; the news only seems to be full of doom and gloom; social calendars are empty and many kids not going to school only adds to parents’ stress levels and woes. Make an effort to get staff to get together and do something fun like quiz nights by video call or some other interactive escapes to lift morale and team spirit.
3) Be especially compassionate and empathetic
People are under extreme levels of stress and managers and leaders need to be especially tuned in to their employee’s emotions and needs during these difficult times. When your company cares about you, you will care about your company.
4) Be extra vigilant
With social distancing and people working from home it’s harder to see what employees are doing all day and consequently recognise their efforts and contribution, so it’s important to ensure good work and endeavour is noticed and appreciated. It is also important to be constantly on the lookout for signs of a lack of engagement and disconnect from the work. When noticed conversations with the flagging employee should be initiated and mutually agreed solutions sought.
5) Maintain visibility and connections
Human beings are sociable creatures and seeing and engaging with others is very important. Set up regular team meetings and encourage collaboration using video calls.
6) Remind employees of their importance and worth
It sounds very simple and obvious but in these difficult times when many companies are struggling, the narrative is often dominated by poor company performance or negative results, whilst the efforts of employees are being overlooked even though some are working harder than ever these days. Prioritise employee performance and recognise their successes and achievements
7) Frequently communicate the company’s plans and mission
Both short-term and long-term plans and objectives should be regularly communicated to help maintain a sense of collective purpose and provide the impetus. Do not let people drift and just float through their days.
8) Stop putting things off until things go back to normal
Waiting until the pandemic is over, or everyone is back in the office is a dangerous mindset. Challenge and eradicate this way of thinking.
9) Make time for people
Engage regularly with colleagues and team members on a one-to-one basis or in teams, even if virtually to talk about things other than work. Chats over the watercooler or whilst waiting for a kettle to boil, or a drink together after work, are important and strengthen relationships and bonds between colleagues. These interactions must persist, even if virtually or over the phone to ensure the corporate culture and sense of togetherness are maintained. Make that virtual coffee happen!
Make sure everyone knows their opinions and ideas matter and that the company is always keen to listen to them and that senior management has an open mind even if you cannot please everyone all the time. Knowing your voice is heard and your opinion valued is highly motivating.
11) Start planning for when the pandemic is over
Be proactive and try to start new projects and initiatives now to come out of this difficult period stronger. Uncertainty and turbulent times will always bring opportunities for companies that show initiative. Get this philosophy instilled across the company and reward creativity and innovation. Encourage everyone to challenge the status quo and find new and better ways to do things. Create a belief and culture that this should be a period with more new ideas than ever, not less.
12) Communicate openly and honestly
Make sure all employees know how the company is performing, the challenges faced, and the outlook for the coming weeks and months ahead. If the situation is difficult and tough times are forecast then communicate this clearly, as it will help employees to connect and feel a part of their company, which will, in turn, motivate them to play their part and help and fight during these toughest of times.
13) Be positive
Others will feed off your positive energy and vibes.
Uncertainty can be stressful—whether it arises close to home, such as changes in your organisation; or on a larger scale, such as the pandemic or recessions. During times of change and uncertainty, employees’ raised stress levels can affect how they focused on the job and productivity may suffer as a result. In this article, we offered some practical tips and areas for managers themselves to focus on to better support employees and keep them focused during unsettled times.
There is no one size fits all solution for every company but the key to maintaining employee focus is for its management and leaders to also maintain their focus and make an extra effort and these 13 steps are a useful guide to help achieve this.