Everyone is fed up. There’s no getting around it. We’re isolated from our friends, family and colleagues; we’re worried about our families, our jobs, our health and our futures. Our physical and mental health are under significant amounts of pressure and no-one knows when it will end or what the world will look like on the other side.
We’ve read (and written!) so many blogs on employee engagement, implementing furlough, remote working strategies and the best tools for virtual connection. They’re helpful and have an important place in the messages we’re sharing. However, we’re several weeks into lockdown and it’s likely you’ve got your new processes in place, you've mobilised your workforce and are settling in to the ‘new normal’ – but many people are tired, disconnected and disenfranchised.
We asked people what one thing they’d like their companies to be doing for them right now that would help them through this time. Here’s what they told us.
1. A clear message of understanding and support on workloads
This was the top answer. Many people feel overwhelmed by an increased workload, and are often being asked to take on duties outside of their usual remit to cover staff on furlough or unpaid leave. The concern is less about the request to take more things on, and more about their employer’s lack of recognition, training and support. It is also taking people longer to perform their usual tasks at home as the usual ‘quick question’ to a colleague a few desks over is now an email or call away, or because internet connections are slow or they don’t have full access to the information they need at home. Many people feel their workplaces have unrealistic expectations of what can be achieved. A simple recognition of this from line managers and an offer of support to review workloads and deadlines is all it would take to tick this one off.
2. Reassurance that their job is safe
This one is linked to another popular answer - the request for transparency and honesty about the financial situation of the company. This is a tricky one for many (if not most) companies for several reasons – firstly, some are not in a position to provide this reassurance to staff. And secondly, it’s fair to accept that some internal agreements need to be reached at a senior level before meaningful communication about finances can be disseminated more widely. And this takes time and careful management. The best thing companies can be doing to address people’s fears for their jobs is to be clear that conversations are happening regularly and earnestly among the leadership team, and to provide reassurance that as much notice as possible will be given if there is an imminent threat to jobs.
3. Schedule an opportunity for non-work related social time
Whilst team communication (in terms of work calls, instant messaging, emails and meetings) might be at an all-time high, many people are missing the fun of chatting to their colleagues about things outside of work. It’s hard to replicate the office banter or cheery chats by the kettle when you’re all at home. If you feel this is a real concern for your teams, you could try any number of things – from a 15 minute regular slot on a Friday afternoon for ‘Zoom drinks’, to a weekly ‘team lunch’ (where you all dial in and chat over your sandwiches) or even an evening quiz or virtual team challenge. Setting aside time for people to join a call that isn’t related to their work is a positive and supporting message from their company, and may contribute to increased motivation and engagement (which will benefit everyone in the short and long-term).
4. Offer to cover the cost of equipment to work more comfortably or efficiently
It seems many companies are doing this on a reactive basis, but if you’re willing to consider reasonable requests of this nature you might want to use it as an opportunity to communicate a positive message out to your teams. Don’t wait to be asked – take the offer to them. This could be anything from covering the costs of computer monitors, back-supporting chairs, laptop trays or replacing broken charging cables.
5. Be positive and motivating in team communications
This one is a quick and easy win. With so much negative news and general uncertainty, it seems obvious that regular messages of positivity and support from line managers will be very gratefully received. As the number of emails we’re sending and receiving soars, and many of them are task-focused, a quick ‘thank you for all your hard work, we appreciate the effort’ message would break up the onslaught a little. If it isn’t already, could this be something your managers regularly schedule for the start and end of the week with their teams? The more personalised the better.
6. Regular updates on return to work plans
As with the request for reassurance around job security, this one is a bit harder – it’s still not totally clear what the options are for safely staging the return of our workforces. But it seems like clear, regular communication that these conversations are happening in line with government guidance, and asking staff to feed into the process, are a fairly easy way to keep your teams on board as your plans take shape.
7. Treats in the post!
Several companies have been sending cards and goodies to their workforce in the post – from chocolates and cupcakes to branded t-shirts and stationery, and even wine on a Friday! These little treats have perked people up no end and are a relatively simple and inexpensive way to show your teams a little love in difficult times. How easy would it be to send everyone in your company a mini pick-me-up in the post?
Whatever you choose to do to support your staff during these unusual times, it seems people want to be recognised for their efforts, given support for their heavy workloads and offered the chance to chat informally with their colleagues while they are in isolation. And if you can stick a box of chocs in the post too, then you’re winning!
We’re still here supporting your recruitment needs, so please do give us a call on 01932 355000 or email firstname.lastname@example.org to speak to one of us about how we can help – or just to say ‘hi’ and have a nice catch up!