Forever etched on the boardroom walls of every organisation, will be 2020. It’s been a year of terrifying rollercoaster twists and turns, as we’ve navigated the pandemic, pivoted commercial strategies and changed the shape of the way we work and live.
Organisations have reacted in differing ways throughout the pandemic – the immediacy and panic reflecting in the strategies and behaviours of some, the care and foresight shining through in others. Organisations and their leadership teams have found themselves on the back foot of changing commercial environments, and it’s fair to say that predicting the unpredictable has been one of the biggest challenges yet. Early indicators show us that some industries have fared better than others, with 2021 projections differing wildly from industry to industry. Employees, through no fault of their own, have found themselves almost like pawns on a chessboard – being rapidly moved around, to meet the changing needs of the pandemic. Life as we knew it has changed in just about every way possible, at home and in the workplace. Many employees have gone from being solely office-based, with the odd work from home day to working predominantly from home now. Parents and caregivers were challenged with homeschooling, sharing their office with not just their partners but their children as they learned how to become educators at the same time as employees. Socially, employees have been not just distanced from one another, but in many instances, from those they love too and have been feeling the strain of significantly reduced social contact. Holidays have had to be cancelled, international travel postponed, and a heightened level of anxiety has cropped up around hygiene, testing and staying well. Statistics show us that up to 42% of employees* have reported a decline in mental health since the start of the pandemic, which has led to feeling overwhelmed – by not just the social changes but by anxiety around the economics (personal and corporate) of a pandemic and the uncertainty this brings into the workplace. One or two of these factors alone are enough to induce anxiety and stress in even the most loyal and stoic of employees, but grouped together, have produced a culture of worry, a fear of the unknown around job security, strategic direction and their own individual futures.
How can organisations attempt to ease this heightened stress load of employees? People are looking for assurances, some certainty in what has become an extremely uncertain world. Whilst promises may not be realistic given the volatile nature of the virus, honest and realistic communication can help to ease the mental load and give some power back to your people. In providing your employees with the most up to date information, you’re inadvertently reducing any concerns about inauthentic communication or critical business matters being hidden, and you open the door to a much more robust conversation. 2020 has been a tough year and the desire from many teams was to take a break over the festive season and to relax and recharge with their families. Proactive, open communication will help to foster a positive environment, increasing productivity in these final few days before everything resumes and building a warm, engaged culture, which employees will strive to remain in as we progress into 2021.