Forget about employee engagement – focus on employee care
Karen Lloyd retention, employer, marketing team...
The question we should be asking ourselves as employers or line managers right now is about the wellbeing of our people.
If your team is not used to working remotely for long stretches of time, or are spending time furloughed, you need to be checking in on them. Working from home takes a particular mindset; as one of my own team said just the other day, “If I wasn’t already used to working from home, I’d be really struggling right now”. It is one thing to make a career decision to do so; even that takes a period of adjustment, but it is quite another to be forced into it thanks to circumstances.
The toll this can take on your employee’s mental health is not something to be overlooked.
Here are some of the questions that I keep at the forefront of my mind when working with new staff who are unused to working from home which might help (hey, you could even ask them of yourself!).
How are you?
This feels daft having to include it, but a heartfelt question about how they are doing is always appreciated and it is surprising how many managers don’t bother to ask. It does help some to open up about any issues, for others you may have to be more oblique to get a true handle on how they are coping.
How do you feel being out of the office?
Without colleagues to bounce ideas off, a tea run to do, or a quick five-minute chat over the desk, some people can feel the isolation more keenly than others. For those employees, encourage the use of platforms where they can connect with their teammates and make sure you schedule a video call each day so they get face to face contact with you.
How can I support you so that you can do your best work from home?
Show that you want your people to be successful but recognise that they may need support in doing so. This is not about putting pressure on people; it is about letting your team know you have their back so they can succeed. It also helps your people to think about what they actually need in order to be successful and provides a degree of autonomy to allow them to do so.
Are there any areas of your project/campaigns that are more difficult or causing bottle necks for you?
Sometimes not being able to have face to face interaction can affect your abilities to engage with your colleagues to achieve the outcomes you are looking for or creates bottlenecks. It’s much easier for some to keep you at arm’s length when you aren’t standing next to their desk! If you can bring your influence to bear here, it can be helpful if you staff need you to.
How many breaks are you taking a day?
Again, this feels like a daft question. But it is so easy to forget to walk away from your screen regularly when you’re at home. Check that your team are up to speed on the need to take regular breaks, especially as they may not have the same type of ergonomic set up at home as at work. Regular breaks are essential, even if it’s just to put the washing on!
Not so much a question as a piece of advice
Be as transparent as possible with your team. There is a fantastic emotional equation (can’t take the credit for this, that goes to Chip Conley at Modern Elder Academy) that says:
Uncertainty x Powerlessness = Anxiety
Uncertainty in times like these is inevitable and as an employee you are in many cases powerless to drive the ultimate direction the business takes, all adding to anxiety levels. If you can be as transparent as possible about the steps the business is taking to get through this time, it will help to diminish the uncertainty.
In addition, be clear about the impact that the employee can have on the business – particularly in marketing (it is possible to have a demonstrable impact in a short time frame). This will help to reduce the feelings of powerlessness by giving the employee a result that they can impact. Both aspects will help to have a positive impact on anxiety levels.
Embrace your culture
Your company decided to embrace a set of core values in good times to help achieve their vision. For most of us these days, that vision is restricted to survival. That does not change the fact that those core values, coupled with a hefty dose of empathy can ensure that we weather these times with our most valuable asset – our people well, engaged and raring to go when things start to pick up again.