Long Covid; long game; long business life

Everybody’s tired of Covid-19. Tired of talking about it. Tired of protecting against it. Tired of articles about it. Tired of being tired of it.

But this pandemic is going to have a long-lasting impact on the business and on employee wellbeing. People are not okay. They are not bouncing off the restrictions, the complications and the challenges as if happy tots on trampolines. They are bouncing off the walls, losing the thread, and every other cliché about stress and anxiety instead.

According to Chris Ogden, CEO of RubiBlue, there is a long road ahead and it asks that organisations, leaders and employees play the long game to ensure they all come out the other side relatively unscathed.

“As much as we all want to go back to the office urgently, the risks are only increasing,” he says. “The current third wave is in full swing, and we are nowhere near achieving some form of normalcy. It has become absolutely essential to put employee wellbeing at the very top of the To-Do list right now. People are not coping.”

In addition to the stress of not being able to interact with other people on a regular basis – something that few realise as essential to emotional stability and a sense of connection – people are having to manage digital, kids, personal lives, losses, tighter economic conditions, and financial instability. It’s the perfect storm of challenging times and its impact is evident everywhere. People are battling to find a balance.

“Not being able to interact with people more freely, or to see their faces and recognise that they’re going through a tough time, actually compounds the problem,” says Ogden. “This can be somewhat ameliorated by encouraging a safe return to the office, but only if the business can assure its people of absolute safety. If you cannot protect your staff, this will only make things worse for some of your employees.”

It’s also important to watch for people who are over or under producing their work. Both could indicate a problem. Sometimes people who are over producing may be on the edge of zoning out or burning out. Those who are not performing may be already burned out or struggling with something in their personal lives. These things are visible and measurable to a certain extent and important to recognise so that you can provide people with support.

“It’s important to engage face to face as much as possible, within restrictions,” says Ogden. “People are tired of digital and yes, Zoom and Teams Fatigue are not just excuses, they are very real problems that are seriously affecting wellbeing. In fact, if you are insisting on meetings to help people connect, it’s advisable to turn video off.”

These steps should be supported by proper HR policies and PPP policies as they give people a sense of structure and allows for the company to have a solid framework in place. That way, even if team leaders are not on site, anyone can pick up issues and trigger assistance or catch a problem. It embeds a culture where everyone is looking out for one another, and this is essential, especially now.

“Have coffees with colleagues, encourage people to reach out to one another personally, and put processes in place that show the company is willing to help,” concludes Ogden. “Consider providing people with a list of recommended support structures, such as psychologists, and offer people training in time management so they can better manage their stress. All these steps go a long way towards giving people a life buoy that they can use to keep afloat amidst the sea of pandemic stress.”

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