Finding the right balance with rocks

How the pandemic has altered the workplace and accelerated The Great Resignation

What can we do to ensure employees are staying and thriving?

During the Covid-19 pandemic, research by the UK Mental Health Foundation, shared by Rethink discovered that 74% of us have had such high stress levels that we felt unable to cope. The pandemic brought yet another possible cause of stress into our busy lives and whilst stress is not an illness in itself, it can trigger destructive cycles of behaviour and make us unwell if left unmanaged for too long. The pandemic forced many to reconsider their priorities, with experts across the globe now warning us of “The Great Resignation” as many consider switching careers and leaving their current roles in search of something better suited to their needs. This is the right time to carefully consider the causes of workplace stress and put in all the necessary supports and policies so that your colleagues feel appreciated and valued.

Covid-19 fanned the flames of pre-existing stress, either by causing further stressful life events to occur or by making an already stressful circumstance even harder to deal with

Over 50 years ago, Dr Holmes and Dr Rahe created The Social Readjustment Rating Scale (SRRS) to describe how much a person’s stress can increase when significant life events happen. As well as divorce and bereavement, having to change jobs or move house are also understandably high on the stress scale. Couple this with an ongoing pandemic and it is easy to see why these already stressful life events can be made much harder.

The health crisis increased a person’s likelihood of experiencing significant life changes, either directly or within their close circle of family and friends. This all has a cumulative stress effect on a person as time goes on, so it is very important now as we move forwards to ensure colleagues at work are feeling supported and able to manage their personal stress levels long-term.

Do you offer counselling for colleagues going through a personal trauma? What are your policies around sick leave, emergency child care, mental health first aid? What supports can realistically be put in place on a day-to-day basis to support your workforce? Make sure these are communicated to your work colleagues and speak to them, come up with solutions together that will allow for both workplace productivity and employee autonomy and advocacy. Regularly review your policies with different groups of people in the workplace to see how they can be adapted to better suit the ever-changing needs of both your business and your employees.

The pandemic has inspired companies to embrace remote working and allow for greater autonomy

According to a survey by the PWC, 65% of employees are looking for a new job and stating that schedule flexibility is their top reason.

Before the pandemic, commuting and set office hours were the norm and the pandemic turned this on its head. For the first time, many people had the opportunity to work hours that suited them best or could work from home whilst drastically reducing their commute to and from work.

Key workers throughout this pandemic have faced immense risk every day with some thriving while others have struggled. Those motivated by the feeling that they were “needed” in society, found immense strength in having a set routine and felt reassured and privileged to be earning a full wage with no change to their income. However, we also have to take into consideration those who were dealing with the daily pressures of furlough – did they know if their wages would be affected, or would there be an option of returning back to work? The pandemic left so many in despair.

Many on the frontline saw through the “hero” rhetoric and noticed a lowering of morale within themselves and their colleagues. From this, it saw them being placed at a higher risk of burnout and ill-health. Ultimately, it comes down to personal needs and choices, any workplace in any sector now needs to really think about what they can realistically do to offer the flexibility, autonomy and trust at work that so many people are craving.

Outcomes vs hours worked, asynchronous vs synchronous and trust vs micro-managing – how can we strike the right balance?

Traditionally, we think of jobs as the hours worked per day and per week and many of us admit to working over and above our contracted hours to try and appear “productive”. However, this is a recipe for employee burnout and ill health therefore we may need to shift to an outcomes-based model where we are measured on the outcomes and impact of our work, not the hours spent on it.

It is also important to be realistic with goals and expectations placed upon individuals especially if you are finding yourself already short staffed. By building a culture of trust and checking in with employees on specific tasks, specific outcomes and specific impact it becomes less about micro-managing every minute and every hour of the day and more about being creative, impactful and beneficial both to the business and to the employee. Another way that employers can boost this culture of trust is by looking at where they can build in asynchronous communications for employees to access. If there is an important presentation – is there an option to record it and send it across to them? If there are free training courses online can your employees take part in these during work hours? We trust our employees at Papillon, if they want to catch up, they can and we’re encouraging other employers to adopt the same mindset.

Many have re-evaluated what they want from life following the pandemic so the best employers will want to align themselves with these key drivers and values

According to HR News, as of September 2021, it is estimated that nearly 1 in 4 UK employees are thinking of quitting their job. Following the uncertainty of the last 18 months, it forces many to think about what elements of their lives they can control. A key part of this is their career and how they make money, there are many factors that play into this beyond pay and perks. This is about feeling valued, trusted and passionate about your work. Workplace culture needs constant care and attention, consulting with employees about what they find important and communicating clearly what your business needs.

The power lies in supporting the people that care for your company. Strategies for workplace stress management should consider how the pandemic has affected people first and your business may need to adapt so that your goals will be achieved, and you can all thrive in this new normal. A happy workforce is a productive one that will be prepared to help you succeed.