When the work commute is mere seconds to your computer and there’s no need to wear trousers and shoes, you may think there’s much less stress.
However, you may now have much less time alone – to listen to your favourite music or watch a TV serial.
The stress of enforced stay-at-home due to the global pandemic, work stress is an added stressor and needs to be looked at with greater insight, cooperation and empathy.
Work-from-home can cause a different type of burnout. Most evidently, you don’t know when work begins and ends. There’s no ‘off’ timing. You’re always at the ‘office’, always working.
This type of working is not healthy, for your physical, mental or emotional balance. It is always better to have clear boundaries between work time and playtime, but that can only be possible if you have a supportive manager.
So, if you have the responsibility of managing your employees in a work-from-home scenario, here’s how you can be helpful:
It’s rarely a real emergency
Admittedly, some industries such as media and medicine usually involve long and late working hours to meet compelling deadlines. But if you keep telling your employees that they have to complete the tasks NOW because it’s an ‘emergency’, they will probably do the task, but it will be under significant stress that’s continual.
Stress colours perspective and negatively impacts productivity. It has other spin-offs, as it is likely to affect the personal relationships of the employee. The fact that he or she is working from a stressful environment at home is not good news for the quality of work output.
So, ask yourself: is it really an emergency? Or can you give a comfortable and reasonable deadline? Could you be using the word “emergency” because of your own insecurities or lack of empathy? Moreover, your employees are not likely to view any task as an “emergency” if it is called so every time!
Don’t use the word emergency unless it really is one. Somethings may be required to be addressed soon, but they don’t qualify as an emergency. Keep perspective on the urgency and maintain healthy boundaries.
Have an office-like schedule for WFH
Life during lockdown is not normal. People have to try and juggle cooking, housekeeping, child care and work – this can be quite a handful. So, don’t expect your employees to respond immediately, especially to emails or messages sent at 10pm.
An understanding employee takes a holistic view and coordinates time and deadlines to accommodate those who are working from home. Leaders help the employee in planning, structuring and managing the pace of work.
Make it clear to your employees that you do not expect an immediate response every time. It is equally important not to reward employees who are constantly working – they will burn out. Ask them to take a break instead.
Keep your employees in the loop
Keep everyone up-to-date about everything. What is the status of the company? What are the plans for the future? When do you expect things to return to ‘normal’ (rather, the new ‘normal’)? Do you expect any layoffs? Whatever you know, share. That builds confidence, loyalty and a sense of belonging. Employees cannot work to optimum levels if they are suspicious or insecure.
It is far less stressful to know what’s going on and helps in avoiding burn out.
Of course, you cannot control your employees beyond a point. Just letting go and letting them get some time off to exercise, meditate, socialise on digital platforms or spend time with family is in itself a big boost in keeping their morale high during the lockdown.
Help your employees cope with the lockdown, and be successful in their work and personal world. Let them have some true downtime. They are, after all, your partners in progress.