If you’ve been reading our updates you’ll know we packed up our workstations, saluted one another from a safe distance and officially went remote on 16/03. And we really haven’t missed a beat with our clients.
But going from a highly-interactive, collaborative creative studio environment to suddenly hanging at home in front of screens hasn’t been all smiles. Sure – the fridge is closer (blessing and curse), we can personally guard our own caches of toilet paper and pants are optional. But when you’re accustomed to churning out your best work in a certain environment, a big shift is not always easy. And we’re not alone. The exodus from the office has begun with even big-four consulting firm EY requiring from all staff work from home. As of this writing, the Australian government has yet to ban office workers from coming in and many organisations are hanging on to their office staff whether for lack of infrastructure or lack of trust.
No matter where your own company stands on office work for the moment, the most likely scenario is that we’re all going to have to make the transition soon. And that means being ready to effectively communicate, manage your staff and continue to produce remotely; all whilst keeping madness at bay and remembering to change your tee shirt.
Yes, the kids will probably be home
A lot of us are parents and, if you’re not in essential services, we’re still awaiting a clear government directive to keep kids home. The Victorian government has just now closed schools early for school holidays but most childcares remain open. Should you be sending your kids? It’s a matter of opinion for some but the evidence is pretty compelling to keep them home if you are able.
Yes, managers and employers, there will be distractions and staff will no doubt find it agitating and difficult to keep kids happy, busy and quiet whilst trying to execute their work. Talk with your staff about individual possibilities – whether that’s a shift or reduction in hours or alternating days with a partner. Now is the time to be empathetic. Punishing parents during this time will beyond a doubt result in legal woes and Fair Work backlash for many businesses going forward.
It’s ok to feel overwhelmed. And any other feeling for that matter
There’s no playbook for what’s going on right now and your staff, colleagues and customers are going to feel and express a complex range of emotions. There’s a definite sense of loss; loss of control, loss of normality, loss of social life. Loss and grief are inextricably linked and get processed by us all at an individual pace via distinct stages and in no set order. David Kessler, one half of the duo that defined the widely-accepted Five Stages of Grief, was interviewed this week in Harvard Business Review about the grieving around the pandemic. In our working relationships, one of his responses in particular stood out to me:
…it’s a good time to stock up on compassion. Everyone will have different levels of fear and grief and it will manifest itself in different ways. A co-worker got very snippy with me the other day and I thought, “That’s not like this person; that’s how they’re dealing with this. I’m seeing their fear and anxiety.”
Some behaviour may be out of character for both co-workers and customers coping with life’s challenges at the moment. It’s essential to remember that these behaviours don’t define that person and they’re more than likely temporary whilst we all try to get our footing.