First came the chaos with everyone scrabbling to move from the office to home, with an extra effort all round to keep things going or, for some, accepting that they would be out of the loop for a while as they were furloughed. Then came the routine, a kind of rhythm that developed as people juggled the demands of their new context. Now as businesses are beginning to open up a new phase is beginning, the start of a possible future and with that additional anxieties are surfacing.
At its heart this anxiety comes from concerns about how decisions will be made about who is in or out of the future organisation, or what place people will occupy. At Praesta we hear stories about people who have really stepped up in this crisis period and others who have disappointed in some way.
That will always be the case but now, perhaps more than ever, understanding the cause of someone’s performance should be an important part of the decision-making. What we are seeing is the real inequality of experience during lockdown and the emotional impact of that is often reflected at work. To make a fair assessment, here are some of the issues that clients are citing:
- Illness either of self or family members, which has taken time and focus from work
- Bereavement, whether through Covid-19 or other illnesses, when people have been unable to be with loved ones or even attend funerals
- Too many people in too small a space, all negotiating work stations and time slots on sub-optimal internet connections
- Physical isolation for those living alone, leading to loneliness and increased anxiety
- Childcare or home schooling responsibilities to be managed alongside and in addition to work
The exceptions are those people who have functioning home offices and someone around who is willing to pick up the family and domestic responsibilities.
Add in to that the real fear of what the future will actually hold, how that touches someone’s sense of identity, and you have a potent emotional mix.
Certainly, some people are more resilient than others, some will adapt better to the avalanche of changes that are coming our way but it is worth supporting good people through their emotional experiences and blockages. If we didn’t know it before, we now understand that it is the whole person who turns up for work. If you are faced with making these decisions, you might consider the following:
- How much do you understand about someone’s real experience over the last couple of months?
- What would be a fair judgement of them during this time?
- Are you in danger of losing a good person to a bad experience?
- What is required of you as a leader to support them getting back on track?