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2nd December 2020

Taking Care of Your Employees (Whilst Taking Care of Yourself)

The COVID-19 pandemic has presented unique challenges for business owners and managers which are testing their people management skills to the absolute limit. The demands are often two-fold as the financial and economic pressure increases for the leaders themselves, potentially placing their own jobs or livelihoods at risk. This is a highly stressful position from which to manage others, so it pays to have a great plan and think carefully about the ways and means of working closely with the employee.

A starting position (pre-Covid) that demonstrates high levels of enablement and engagement is likely to promote the environment of trust and communication essential to guiding an employee through the crisis. Employers should show empathy while adopting a caring and compassionate stance regarding an individual’s personal circumstances. Wherever possible, the processes and decisions implemented to protect the business should be transparent and involve an element of collaboration, encouraging two-way lines of communication. Technology, such as Zoom and Microsoft Teams, is readily available to encourage collaboration and meetings; which is proving highly effective in keeping team members connected. 

An employee or department may not agree with a business decision to furlough, reduce hours, downsize or restructure; so, keeping the team informed and updated as far as is reasonably possible may at least promote an understanding and pragmatism about what actions are necessary.

It is the job of the manager to help the employee through. Best practice would include regular calls to discuss workload, performance and well-being, particularly when home-working. One of the major disruptions arising from working from home is the employees own personal challenges.  This may include family interruptions, problems at home or feelings of detachment or isolation.  It is important that the manager understands that they are not obligated to fix the employees personal issues, but rather solve the business problem. Offering solutions such as (more) flexible working, time out to be with the family or better technology may go some way to improving the productivity of the employee. It should be noted that the colleague must take some responsibility for managing their own time and schedule to complete the allocated work in a professional manner. Practical solutions such as using a dedicated workstation or room can go some way towards demisting the increased blurred lines between work and home. 

With owners and managers operating under significant stress, it may be beneficial to seek help from a selection of business coaches, mentors or legal and HR professionals to take an objective view of the business and provide expert guidance. A trusted consultant to confide in, help plan the business and support the workload may just create enough space for the clarity of thought required to guide the business through these difficult times.  

Managers can increase their learning at this time to better prepare for change management. This is potentially an ideal time to foster accountability while helping employees feel secure and prepared for the future, operating with a sense of purpose.  Employers should continue to adapt and work from the perspective that periods of uncertainty don’t necessarily have to be paralyzing or fatal. 

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