Health & Safety
What the COVID-19 pandemic has taught us about work
By Mina Movasseli
If something happened today that was unexpected and devastating, you would probably feel a lot of emotions.
Hopefully, at some point while you process it, you would identify the lesson that came from the experience.
Whether that takes days, months or years depends on the person, who they are getting advice from, the situation, and a whole list of factors.
COVID-19 is no different, and it comes with a lot of lessons for workplace leadership.
This is partially because they not only had to think about how to go remote (temporarily or permanently), but also the personal and emotional factors they have to face with their employees going forward.
This time, it’s personal and business
For years, most companies have been trying to get employees to separate their business and personal life.
Even when certain tech companies and start-ups started to bring in a new type of workplace culture that was focused on well-being, it was still frowned upon by many to mix personal and professional — and especially political.
On one end, there are benefits to separating the two worlds, as workplaces that are focused too much on employees’ personal lives have a harder time focusing on getting bigger tasks completed.
Of course, this is dependent on various factors, such as the type of personalities, how well people handle emotions, and of course the level of drama that is discussed — and how frequently.
On the contrary, connecting with people through personal life stories is a natural part of the mind, and it’s how humans have communicated for centuries.
So, in the work environment when stories are shared, colleagues can feel a sense of community and connection to one another.
However, this has been complicated with remote work, because it is dependent on screen time with colleagues and how much effort leadership puts into creating fun events to connect people virtually.
In further mixing personal and professional lives, COVID-19 has also placed many workplace leaders in a position to discuss personal situations to identify what kind of remote or flexible work situation people are needing (if that is an option from the employer).
This is on top of figuring out who is and is not vaccinated, and what they should do about their policies going forward, further decreasing the separation between personal life and work life.
Even though it is a safety issue, there are many leaders having to listen to employees about their views on it, which is a major emotional toll.
Again, this is being conducted at the same time as needing to figure how to help employees who may be finding it hard to work and deal with the pandemic life, and sharing places for services to help their employees cope.
So, if leaders thought business was a place where the personal was left at home, the pandemic has definitely made it clear that the two are now very related and need to be handled with thorough
Bullying in the workplace and COVID-19
As the lines between personal and professional become more mixed, it increases the chances for people to know one another’s personal views. Especially with COVID-19 and the ample amount of information and access to the internet, many people are choosing a stance — and some are making it clear via social media. This will increase the chances of ostracizing, which is when people leave someone out — a form of bullying.
Leadership has to learn that this is happening and they need to address it going forward.
Because as more people become divided on their views, and policy changes in Canada slowly going towards mandatory vaccines, there will be people feeling like they are not heard or understood, and jobless from it, further creating a divide between employees and a political atmosphere in the workplace, and placing leadership in a position to find ways to create harmony rather than division between their employees.
Technology: friend or faux?
Finding secure ways to communicate and conduct business remotely has become very important to organizations looking to scale during the pandemic.
Some companies who have not figured out how to stay up to date and connected have fallen behind.
This includes those that are able to and are choosing to not provide even one or two days of remote work to their employees.
Because for them, when the norm becomes partial remote work, the companies without it might only attract certain types of individuals that are willing to come to work, such as those who need separation from their home and kids, or those who need a job and will temporarily work somewhere that is not giving them the same benefits as another competitor.
What COVID-19 has amplified for workplace leadership was the yearning from employees to have the option and freedom to live in places they want to.
Let’s be honest — some people just function better in a different environment.
With the increase in options of when you go to a coffee shop to different social media platforms, we have become privileged to have options provided to us.
And if it becomes the standard to have a remote work option, then leadership will have to find ways to technologically advance to accommodate the needs of their talent.
In the end, workplace leadership needs to address areas where it might have felt like they should be hands off.
They need to get personal and see that they are very much involved in the lives of their employees and need to find ways to accommodate them in order to keep their talent, rather than getting involved in a way that is controlling and taking away peoples’ freedom.
Mina Movasseli is a behavioral scientist and founder of The Mindful Blueprint in Toronto.
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