The beginning of the pandemic in March 2020 was genuinely scary. According to the Office of National Statistics (ONS), nearly half of UK adults experienced high levels of anxiety — more than double the normal rate. But, as lockdowns progressed, we adapted to ‘the new normal’ and our collective behaviour changed.
We have since learned to live with restrictions, and we are learning to live with the continued arrival of new threats and disruptions. But, for as much as we’ve learned, all our questions and doubts still abound. What risks am I taking when I go out? Will I catch COVID even though I’m fully vaccinated? Or, more annoyingly, will I get a ‘ping’ from the NHS app?
We want to make plans. We want to move on. Yet, uncertainty makes this hard. And, unknowns are psychologically disturbing. They disrupt our inner calm and equilibrium, and they make us feel threatened. When this happens, our fight and flight mechanisms kick in.
In recent weeks, thousands of people across the UK have been “pinged” by the NHS and notified of their need to self-isolate. While traditionally our homes are a place of refuge, after a year of living in isolation, the thought of returning to our caves is a grim one. But, that’s the reality of the ‘pingdemic’.
Many businesses, already struggling with a sluggish economy, are losing life-sustaining revenue as people isolate. Serious staff shortages from isolation have made it difficult for shoppers to pick up needed supplies. And, while there is a small element of fear, there’s also an intense feeling of exasperation and annoyance.
All of this has made for a frustrating scenario that has, once again, raised anxiety levels. We’ve known for a long time that frustration is an easy way to kill creativity, and with the end of the pandemic feeling so close yet so far, many feel trapped by uncertainty.
So, what can you do to help your team through this time of continued disruption?
Give clear advice which is transparent and fair
As in all times of uncertainty, communicate clearly. Rather than false confidence, be honest and open. Honesty from leadership is calming, and calmer employees are not only happier but also more productive. It’s as close to a win-win you’ll get in these uncertain times.
Fall back on friendships
As I said in a recent Forbes article, I believe the quality of workplace relationships not only affects our experience of work – work is indisputably better when we get along with people – it’s also business critical.
This is particularly true during difficult times. All of us appreciate having good friends in our lives and when we fall back on friendships, we share the emotional burden and mental load. People help friends in a way they don’t help acquaintances. The connections we have with our friends, helps us move on from frustrating situations.
Listen and be flexible in your approach
It’s incredibly important to listen to your people and adopt a flexible approach to work. It’s been a long 18 months. People are looking forward to getting away or going on holiday. Yet, in light of current circumstances, they don’t want to run the risk of getting ‘pinged’. If that means they would prefer to not come into the office, respect that.
If you’re trying to determine the best approach for your team, consider first gauging their comfort level. Asking people if they want to return to a physical workplace before they’ve actually tried returning is an inherently flawed approach. So, after they’ve had the experience, poll them on how they feel. This approach will ensure you get an accurate insight to how your team are faring and where, collectively, their comfort level is.
How Friday Pulse can help
The future is always uncertain. But, it’s good to remember that we’ve been through worse and we’ve done it before.
In times of uncertainty, Friday Pulse’s people platform tracks weekly happiness scores so you can know in real-time how your team is doing. Our platform supports teams to have better conversations, helps them get to know each other better, and build on what’s going well while unearthing future challenges.
Reach out to the Friday Pulse team for more information on how we can help you and your organization today.