With the fast moving COVID situation, firms are having to adapt at a speed few could ever have planned for, managing large workforces almost entirely remotely. This comes on top of one of the most volatile periods for markets in history. Together, these challenges have resulted in a hugely stressful time for employees, disrupting the way they work and creating a sense of dislocation.
Companies are rapidly having to adapt policies against an uncertain, evolving backdrop. Understanding what is most concerning employees right now is essential knowledge for informing which policies need reviewing or even creating, and where to focus wellbeing resources. So, we’re sharing some of the critical insights we’ve uncovered through both “pulses” and employee-led anonymous questions to help companies, and their employees, adapt to this strange new normal.
FIND A WAY TO CUT THROUGH THE NOISE
Social platforms are a staple for staying connected and bringing people together virtually. The informal context and quick responses from a hive mind have naturally led to business issues being migrated to email and chat systems too. However, the sheer volume of traffic creates serious challenges for management. How can they cut through the noise and drill down to major issues, not to mention make sure the right advice is given when things are moving so fast in an environment of unknowns?
Interestingly, Rungway is seeing its controls and question routing service being more heavily used than at any time since it was launched. Companies are choosing to have certain topics automatically filtered and routed to the right person for the right advice before opening them up to everyone, rather than missing key questions or having a delicate post risk inviting misinformation or speculation.
A TIME FOR CROWDSOURCED INNOVATION
We are seeing ideas quickly turn into new initiatives to help support the wellbeing of staff through the uncertainty of this crisis. A good example is the suggestion of calls of 45 minute instead of an hour to create regular breaks. A simple solution, proposed by employees to address the absence of mental down time that comes from walking between meetings or simply chatting by the desk. From one employee post to a company-wide wellbeing solution, in hours.
Wellbeing of staff is a priority shared by all of our clients. Many firms are taking extra steps to check in on the wellbeing of staff, including making sure employees and teams feel connected: managers are swapping out in-person meetings for regular video conference check-ins to help their teams to feel included. But is it enough?
On Rungway, leaders are also viewing real-time feedback by giving employees the ability to raise and discuss issues – and critically, they can choose to do it anonymously. This is providing management with accurate, invaluable information on what topics to focus their communications on to ease minds and protect a healthy culture within their teams.
Rungway insights also tell us that managers need help to learn how to adapt their styles to manage people well, remotely. When you’re no longer together as a team, getting the right balance between being visible and micro-managing isn’t obvious. Nobody will have been taught how to manage in this unusual way before, and Rungway is proving a supportive space to share leadership advice, grow knowledge and adapt with confidence.
COMMON QUESTIONS, WORRIES AND ADVICE STAFF HAVE BEEN SHARING
More junior employees are using the privacy of anonymity to seek peer to peer support on a myriad of issues including:
Business continuity: how to build and maintain strong client relationships when you can’t meet in person, especially when you don’t know the client very well? How to stay productive when you’re trading off an ironing board?
Other questions have emotional and mental health closer to home, with moving posts about feeling lost, panic attacks, and too many video calls (rather than audio) making introverts anxious.
Work/Life Balance. Staff are reporting a blurring of work and home life: a feeling of being under pressure to be always on(line) and the difficulty of switching off when many now work and sleep from the same room. Why even bother to get dressed? How to find the time to prepare a whole meal between calls (for the “Pret” generation, many of whom are not efficient cooks or cleaners). With working from home rules now potentially extending for months, questions around how and whether to take paid holiday are also trending.
Widely liked advice has covered half-day Fridays, fancy dress Tuesday, virtual book clubs and end-of-week virtual team drinks – all suggestions to lift spirits in trying times. The authentic, personal nature of Rungway means management are able to respond in a tone that often begins “My friend …” “Anonymous, you are not alone”, and “It’s OK to not be OK”.
OUR ADVICE FOR HR PROFESSIONALS AND LEADERS
To navigate disruptive change and minimize business risk, make sure you have channels to really allow honest conversations, rather than just broadcasting to your people. You could be, and very likely are, missing a key part of the story if you do not listen to your workforce honestly.
Don’t underestimate how distant people can feel – communicate with kindness, personal stories, consistency. Learn as you go: the frequency of communication can change over time (some posts comment that staff felt inundated with “check-ins” in the early days) but it’s better to start with more and dial it down.
Most importantly, be open and transparent. Trust your people to understand the situation and empower them to react in the right way.