These past few weeks have been the most challenging for every single individual globally, from large corporates to street vendors – everyone has felt the pinch financially and emotionally.

This has also been a time to see true leaders emerge across the world, and in organisations. One of the challenges leaders have faces is how to stay afloat while supporting caring for their employee’s wellbeing during this time.

Leaders have never felt a heavier load on their shoulders and as frustration and anxiety rises, leaders have had to remain calm while paddling like crazy to keep moving towards a new normal.

A few years ago, many of our clients started talking about remote working. This was going to be great we all thought! No traffic, start working earlier, use of hot-desking, higher productivity and of course saving on exorbitant office space costs!

So many of our clients started this journey and slowly moving in this direction, decreasing their office footprints, and trying out various solutions that will enable remote working.  However, one still had a choice.

What the pandemic has done is completely taken away the choice, as well as the much-needed social interaction that makes humanity what it is. Add to that the realities of uncertainty in job security childcare and overall emotional and financial strains most families are facing.

With that leaders have scrambled to find solutions, and just watching the news one can sit for days looking at different world leaders, different styles, different levels of empathy and understanding of the unique individual experience during this time. Some shocking, some inspiring, some simply lacking, and some openly anxious and vulnerable.

Organisational leaders are also facing the same challenges, stresses and demands for solutions in a time when there are limited solutions, answers, and clear direction. There is also the need to meet targets and perform, make tough decisions like retrenchments and salary cuts, and hopefully keep the doors open through this period.

Leaders during this time, are also expected to lead.  Employees are looking to them for any type of hope and structure. It is during this time when we have seen many leaders become more involved in how individuals working remotely need to be inspired. And during this time, we have seen leaders experiment with some solutions to help connect themselves to their employees on a human level, one of them being videos. I must applaud all the leaders how are embracing this, and ensuring that their employees see that they, as well – are struggling and adjusting the best they can to their circumstances. That they too, are human.

Have you taken the time to understand your employee’s circumstances? Has your team provided statistics on what you are really dealing with, and developed solutions (including video content) that addresses your environmental needs? Leading blindly is not leading.

Leading with knowledge, data, information and the required empathy during this time will not only ensure that your employees are inspired, but it will ensure that you get to the end of this time with some sense of achievement.

2020 is for survival, and we need everyone to get to the end of this pandemic, so that we can rebuild our country, our economy and hopefully – sometime in our lifetime get to a place where we have a balanced social and economic landscape to weather the next pandemic.

One of the areas we have been advised to do is take care of our mental health, and like the braver leaders, I too took to video to ask my team to work out, have a routine, have structure etc. It is during this time that I have seen videos of breaks in the garden, and captions like – if you are feeling overwhelmed – go out to the garden.

I happen to have a small garden, but it’s a garden, nonetheless – I can do some jumping jacks and refresh my mind there without thinking about it.

I am also aware of my country’s social and economic disparities, and the fact that a lot of employees’ circumstances are drastically different. You may have been sitting next to your colleague for 5 years, but do you really know their circumstances?

The few areas that we have identified through surveys run by different organisations tell us the following:

  1. Provide tools. I believe that most companies in our country got this right very early on. IT resellers sure hit their 2020 targets quicker than they imagined. Every employee had to have a laptop, and a 3G card and most employers complied. What transpired was people working on beds or uncomfortable chairs. Yes, we were not ready, and our homes are not designed for office work. Output – lower productivity?
  2. Make sure there is connectivity. Sure, if you are living in an area where the connection is great you will be sorted. For the most part, however, the majority of South Africans don’t have access to reliable internet services or connectivity that can hold a full days’ work. South Africa has the most expensive data in the world, and now employees will need additional data for video conferencing multiple times a day. Output – lower productivity?
  3. Home schooling.  Are you concerned about home schooling? Most South African Schools are not even home-schooling! The kids are at home, they don’t have access to google classrooms, teachers are not equipped to teach in this manner, the curriculum is not online and for most households, helpers are also home with their kids and there is no assistance or support.  Kids are home with nothing to do except watch TV. Output – lower productivity?  Output – lower productivity?

Take a break and refresh in your garden. Safe assumption?

No, because I don’t have a garden.

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