Six practical ways for organisations to connect to their people
and support their welfare during Covid-19
By Matt Stephens, CEO of Inpulse
May 1 2020 - For the first time in history, the majority of Brits are working from home with businesses transformed under new realities of Covid-19. Many employees are feeling the psychological impacts of being isolated from their teams and many have been furloughed, potentially facing redundancy.
In fact, according to research from our recent employee engagement survey, nearly two thirds of employees said their most common feelings amidst the pandemic were anxiety, stress or distraction, with job security being the dominant reason for the emotions.
Indeed, with so many people concerned about their careers as well as potentially facing numerous distractions working at home, it's not surprising that some are finding it difficult to stay motivated.
The survey showed us, that of the negative and positive emotions employees could choose, just seven percent selected 'focused' as a top emotion, while 'committed' only represented 14% of emotions chosen. Until this point, 'committed' represented 21% of all emotions chosen in engagement surveys undertaken by our clients in 2020. This highlights a 50% decrease since the coronavirus pandemic. On top of this, 'anxious' represented 5%, 'stressed' was at 5%, and 'distracted' at less than 1%. These have now become dominant emotions, with 'anxious' being 28%, 'distracted' 22% and 'stressed' 11%.
The pulse surveys have never shown these levels of anxiety and stress in 'normal' times and it highlights the impact Covid-19 has had on employees' wellbeing. For instance, we typically see high levels of commitment and enthusiasm around employees' jobs and their organisations. Sadly, people are now consumed with uncertainty - with 40% agreeing that their emotions are impacting performance.
So what is expected of businesses now?
How organisations respond to this dramatic shift will determine the welfare of their teams - and their company. In the short term, how leaders act is important as it will influence the ability of the team to keep going and stay motivated under difficult circumstances.
Bear in mind too, leaders will be judged on the values they prioritise and behaviours they instill in their business. This can influence the long-term relationships between colleagues and levels of trust in the business. Employees never forget how leaders make them feel, and their emotional wellbeing can have great impacts on their productivity and engagement levels.
Because of this, organisations must connect or stay connected with their teams. People respond to uncertain times in different ways. Some can't focus, are distracted and overwhelmed, some go into survival mode while some excel in a new challenge. By understanding how people are feeling, staying in regular communication and knowing how people will react, it'll be more possible to combat and cater for different responses. When employers are people-focused and agile in this way, they can help their people be more productive and engaged.
What should employers do?
Supporting the wellbeing of employees can be achieved in a multitude of ways:
- Clear, transparent communications of the short-term future of the business, from senior leaders are vital. If a leader doesn't know the answers, it is better to be honest. Good communications reduce anxiety.
- Leaders should provide short, focused objectives to their people and set clear expectations to help teams stay focused and avoid being distracted. Regular, small soundbite communications are best to help people digest information clearly in a time when there is an overwhelming level of information produced.
- Line managers should be enabled to support their teams emotionally by helping them manage their mindsets and identifying who may be struggling. Many aren't used to remote working, working in isolation or working with home distractions. A lack of work connection isn't easy for many.
- Encouraging regular conversations between colleagues enables them to feel involved in any changes the business must make. Leaders can hold regular catch-ups, make sure employees have the time to talk, encourage feedback on how they are getting on and where managers can improve. These help leaders understand team wellbeing to channel energy and resources effectively.
- Also key is for leaders to be human and build trust, enabling them to better connect with their team. Trust is a foundation, and when teams trust the guidance and strength of leaders, they feel more content with the direction of the business, more secure in their positions and more at ease to continue working. Working under isolation is actually a good environment for leadership to show their human-side. With video conferences, for example, work and private lives are mixed, giving an insight into people's homes, more casual clothes and family life.
- Sharing stories and expressing insights under the new situation is a perfect way for leaders to create a feeling that 'we're all in this together'. Not only this, but if leaders share their own means of adapting, struggling and, even failing, whilst working remotely, they appear more than just figures heading the company. They too become vulnerable, further promoting a sense of togetherness and trust.
Now is an opportunity for organisations to show compassion and understanding of struggles employees may be facing. Positively, in our recent survey, 76% of respondents said they have confidence in their business leaders to make the right decisions, with 43% strongly agreeing and 33% agreeing.
Whatever changes organisations make to improve the welfare of their team and business and however leaders adapt, everyone must learn that it's ok to try new things, and importantly, that it's ok to fail. With change comes uncertainty and not all changes will suit the new and transforming needs of staff and the company.
This period can be seen as a time for growth in different ways, where many organisations can learn from their mistakes and continue with renewed energy and a new sense of purpose until they find the best measures that cater to staff and business needs. Positives can come from negative situations, so this is a chance for leaders to connect with their teams, not least because everyone is in the same boat.