The Coronavirus pandemic is affecting our lives in every aspect, and we are experiencing a “new normal.” At some point things will get back to normal, whatever that is, but it will look different from what normal was a few weeks ago. This pandemic is an intensifier and an accelerant, so that means we’re getting a “new normal” every week, if not every day. Because of the rapidly shifting world, we don’t know how everything is going to shake out in the next two to six months, or a year. Some financial experts are predicting that if we’re not already in a recession, we will be heading towards a recession. People are getting laid off from jobs, although local governments are doing their best to forestall that.
Here’s what we’re noticing in our company as well is in our clients’ organizations and those of our colleagues: everyone is stressed, and productivity is abnormally low.
Here at The Shuler Group, we’ve always been a proponent of engaging with your employees and staff and communicating effectively. Now more than ever, it’s crucial to get a read from your employees and staff.
I know most organizations are already overwhelmed with the “new normal,” how to navigate it, how to work remotely, how to position themselves, how to market, how to sell, and so on. As a manager and leader, you don’t necessarily need one more thing to do, but if you don’t check in with your people and start to mitigate the fallout from these odd and strange times, the damage could last far longer than the current situation.
In order to get that temperature reading of how your employees are coping, here are nine questions you need to be asking your staff and employees.
- Rate your stress level on a scale of 1 to 10. This gives you a read on how they’re doing in general. Some of us tend to bury our feelings and emotions, or we have a Superman or Superwoman complex. “I can handle it all. I can do it all,” but if you have an employee that comes back with a 6 or a 7 or higher, but they’re giving off this attitude of, “I’m fine. I’m just doing the best I can,” they might need a little bit more support.
- What is your level of productivity on a 100% scale? I’d be surprised if you got an answer of 100%. When it became apparent at the beginning of March that we were definitely in the midst of a new normal, both of my daughters came to live with us indefinitely, one bringing her boyfriend and a cat. So we went from two people and one cat to five people and two cats, and everyone (except the cats) need Internet access for remote working or schooling. My productivity that first week was awful. It’s not fair to expect the same productivity out of yourself. As a good manager and leader, you need to convey that: “I don’t expect you to be 100% productive.”
- What is affecting that level of productivity? That’s where you may find out more information like, “My mother’s in a nursing home and now I’m not allowed to see her. I know she benefits from in-person stimulation; otherwise she starts to decline. I don’t know what to do. I don’t know how to handle that.” You as their manager may not be able to do anything about it, but at least you understand and just acknowledging and hearing that could be more helpful for your employee than you realize.
- What tangible support or resources do you need in order to do your work right now? Do you need a faster laptop? Do you need a headset so you’re not holding the phone to your ear during company meetings? Do you need childcare? Again, you may not as the employer be able to provide it, but at least you need to understand what the challenges are and maybe brainstorm to help solve those challenges.
- What level of emotional support do you need in order to feel more at ease? I caution you with this question because there are some people who are not as emotionally based as others. They are definitely much more logical and linear, and so they may look at you askance when you ask this question. “What do you mean emotional support? I have no idea what you mean by that”; that tells you something. Other people, though, who are more emotionally based will appreciate that question. Some of their answers might be something like, “I just might need to vent for five minutes” or “I might need an extra 30 minutes at lunchtime to call my mom at the nursing home and make sure she’s doing okay.” Who knows what the answers will be, but you are asking the questions, and listening to the answers will do more than you realize.
- How much do you want your manager to check on you personally? This speaks to work styles. Is someone self-sufficient? Does someone need a little more direction, or is he or she somewhere in between? You may already know the answer to this question. It’s still good to check in because it could be different in the new normal. Whatever their answer is to that question, try to honor it if you can.
- What are you doing to practice self care at home? Again, those answers are going to vary. Those answers will give you insight, and they might give you the opportunity to brainstorm suggestions and solutions.
- What are you doing to practice self care at work? The interesting sideline to this is if they’re working from home, they may think it’s the same question. It’s not because what they might need in their work life, even if it’s at home, is going to be different from what they need for themselves in the home portion of their life. Some of these could be practical tips like working from one designated area and don’t do work in other places that are more either family oriented or self care oriented.
- How has the current situation affected how you view the world? For example, if you normally consider yourself a positive person, has this situation changed that outlook? If you normally consider yourself a pessimistic person, has this situation change that way that you view the world? What these questions are doing or allowing you a deeper insight into the individuals that you work with. There may be nothing you can do to fix any of this, but it will give you insight, and your people will very much appreciate the opportunity to be heard and acknowledged.
I want to stress that it’s really important that you ask these questions sooner rather than later. Community is important like it’s never been before. These questions help you create and maintain that community as well as make it stronger. So again, you need to ask these questions, pay attention to the answers, then decide what your organization needs to put in place to address what bubbles up.
If this is more than you can handle, that’s where we can help. We can administer these questions, analyze the results, report on our findings, and then deliver our recommended actions.
And if we can be of service now or in the future, please reach out to us. In the meantime, let’s remember that we’re all in this together and the stronger we are now, the more we’ll come out of this in as much of a positive way as we can.