Life in the *Coronaverse has been weird for all of us. Not only is it scary from the obvious health standpoint, but it’s shifted almost every avenue of societal norms and standards.
Now, I’m not a health expert. I’m not a nurse or doctor. And if that’s the type of advice you’re looking for, I’d recommend checking out the CDC’s website.
I’m a Communications professional. My focus is in building and maintaining business relationships and all that that encompasses. So, how have our business relationships changed? What does this shift of cultural and societal norms mean for business and professionals moving forward?
It means you need to understand and respect your team members’ concerns.
Valuing your team members should always be a top, if not THE top, priority for your firm. People are dealing with schools and daycares closing, different work hours, less recreational activities AND the obvious health risk involved with being around groups of people in a pandemic. People are stressed. According to the CDC, during the early months of 2020, U.S. adults reported considerably high levels of stress, anxiety, depression and other mental health conditions. Younger adults, racial/ethnic minorities, people with lower incomes and essential workers have reported even higher levels of stress, anxiety and depression.
We’re all going through a lot and it’s important to recognize that in your work environment. Be respectful of people’s attitude changes and stressors. While also needing to maintain an efficient work environment, consider the following:
- Groups of people in a pandemic can be anxiety-inducing. If your state is allowing businesses to be open, still keep your team members’ comfort level in mind. Ask them: Do you feel comfortable being around each other? Would you rather do meetings online, via a video call? Do you feel you have the tools to do your job efficiently from home? Do you feel safe at work?
- People often don’t feel comfortable going against the “norm.” So, be observant. Talk to people individually and make sure they’re all comfortable with any in-person events. Don’t pressure your team members to respond a certain way. It’s important for them to feel they can be honest with you.
- If you and your team have decided that being in-person is 100% necessary, make sure to involve the CDC’s social distancing and mask guidelines to ease health concerns. You taking the time to make sure your team feels safe will not only increase their comfort level, but demonstrate your care for your team members. Making them feel safer to engage more and perform at a higher level.
- You don’t necessarily know if any of your team members or partners have an underlying health condition. So do not act like you do. I CANNOT STRESS THIS ENOUGH. Do NOT assume your team members’ physical or mental health status (Especially if you do not provide health insurance or mental health resources to your employees). You also do not know the status of their loved ones who may be at a higher risk. Be courteous of their concerns, spoken or not. Let them know it’s okay if they don’t want to disclose everything, but to please communicate their concerns on a basic level so you can help create a healthy and happy work environment for them. I promise you, these types of conversations matter – and matter more now, than ever.
Your team members are your firm’s lifeline. But more importantly – they are people. They are parents, aunts and uncles. Daughters and sons. Grandparents or grandchildren. Do not make them feel as they need to choose between their job and their health, or even their life (or the lives of their family members).
If you create an environment where your team feels safe – you will continue to be productive. Things are changing and we have to adjust accordingly. Happy employees who feel safe and appreciated in their work environment will always do right by you (and your clients)!
*I use the term ‘Coronaverse’ (meaning the world as we know it now, thanks to COVID-19) that I got from Star Talk Radio, a podcast from Neil deGrasse Tyson and Chuck Nice. It’s about astronomy, physics, current world events and how it all relates to science, etc. I’m a huge space geek so I’m a big fan.