Be careful of what you wish for. Have you heard this prophetic warning before somewhere? Never before have so many people who wished for solitude; isolation; time-out and a break rued those wishes.
Working from home (WFH) has been a dream of many people across cultures and boundaries, often ending in despising non-officebound colleagues for the freedom gained by having a flexible lifestyle. Flexible often showing up as flexi-time at the office, or even being based at home and never schlepping into the work environment. Many an envious eye was glanced the way of sales reps and mobile / independent contractors and fellow employees.
What a few weeks have have done to change perceptions, and the novelty has probably started to rapidly wear off with ever evolving Covid-19 lockdown extensions! Why?
Human beings are naturally social beings, loving and hating interactions with people in offices around the globe.The gossip at the coffee machine or water cooler; the instant message texting under the boardroom table mocking the manager giving another boring lecture on XY or Z. People don’t enjoy the long commutes every day, let alone the costs involved to get to work yet life demands that we follow the routine to earn a living to survive and bring up our families and educate our children. Rince. Repeat.
It’s been fascinating observing dynamics in our own environment with staff attempting to adjust to this new normal of working from home. Having being home-based for 7 years already, I’m loving the new and more frequent interactions on House Party with staff whom I ordinarily don’t spend much time with, being that my real office is 1,600 kms away! It’s this unique voyeuristic vantage point that I’m observing some realisations afresh.
No technology or great communication apps can totally bridge the gaps and keep our beloved staff entirely happy. Look, it’s made a heck of a difference and we’re super-fortunate to keep everyone employed and our partners happy… don’t get me wrong. But, it’s becoming more and more apparent that work and the space it physically takes up is really the great escape for many people.
Being in this unique solitary confinement with families has possibly more cons than pros. Tempers are flaring more often between spouses and children just due to boredom and the forced physical co-location. It’s no longer possible to nip down to the shops / bar / surf / mountainbike / run for a few hours to let off that steam. Normal social interactions like BookClub or Boy’s Night Out have gone into limbo, with no natural easing of tensions or venting possible. Add fuel to this fire is the inability to smoke or have a light tipple.
This is where empathy and balance of routines to check-in with staff at a different level becomes essential. Emotional intelligence of even the best leaders is now being stretched further than ever due to necessity. The pressures of work, financial insecurity and uncertainty about the future requires a gentler way, balanced with a reminder that work must go on and standards are standards.
Encourage your guys to plug into their favorite music on their earbuds, watch enlightening YouTube or TED Talks and read (downloading) versus getting negative information media overload. The current Corona 24×7 news on every channel does nothing to lessen our stress hormones, which in turn wastes precious bodily energy best saved to fight off viruses and the like.
BREATHE. RELAX. This too shall pass.