Updated: Aug 4
No leader has ever been called on to lead through turbulence like what organizations are currently facing during this Covid-19 pandemic across the globe. Delivering expected level of productivity becomes a continuing challenge in the midst of minimum direct contact, limited mobility, and ongoing home distraction. UPnormal times need UPnormal way of working.
Despite the global awareness about VUCA which certainly demands agility and more flexible way of working, there are some emerging concerns shared by professional workers in embracing the new normal of working rapidly without enough time for gradual transition of working habit. More and more professional workers reported overwhelming stress and increased exhaustion while they are working from home.
In our in-depth interview with professional workers across industries, we discovered the unexpected challenges they are facing during the WFH times. The following concerns have to be addressed immediately by leaders in every organization in order to avoid burnout and disengagement in the near future:
1. Drained Energy to Keep Up the Pace
Exhaustion seems to spread quickly among professional workers who have to meet certain level of expected performance whilst still working on finding the work-life balance in the new remote working culture. Back-to-back online meeting gives a constant challenge on working endurance throughout the day. A joke among them even twisted the term WFH that was supposed to be the abbreviation of ‘Working from Home’ to be ‘Working Free Hours”.
As leaders, you need to balance between high performance expectation and mental support for your team. Showing empathy whenever they face personal challenges at home during working hours will make a big difference to keep their spirit high. You may also encourage your team members to improve their capacity in managing energy during WFH by understanding their limitations as human being and working with rather than against them.
2. Overwhelming Rapid Shift of Working Style
Keeping up with such rapid change in working habit is never easy for any professional workers. Not only they need to shift from face-to-face working interaction to virtual meeting, they also have to adapt quickly to digital technologies for virtual communication and collaboration which they are unfamiliar with.
In times when day-to-day change in business landscape happens so fast, their agility is also tested beyond measure. Now they have to organize their own schedule independently to get things done, whilst are also facing multifaceted distraction from social media, emails, internet, and home chores. When you find their productivity starts to decrease, you need to apply outcome-focused leadership to you ensure that every team member understand what is their expected outcome and let them decide the best ways to achieve it. You may also improve their efficacy by developing an agile remote working habit.
3. Unmet Basic Needs of Social Affiliation
Never before in modern times have so many employees worked from home across industries and across nations. One study of 1,100 workers found that more than 50% who worked from home at least some of the time were more likely to have a sense of isolation and out of sight. Leaders need to be aware of the signs of employees struggling psychologically with remoteness.
In a virtual working environment, there is a tendency to focus too much on tasks and too little on relationships. During the outbreak, with the rising concern on securing health, physical distancing and working from home are turning into a social, relational distancing. Studies found that people with the sense of loneliness and lack of affiliation are more prone to depression. Professional workers need to build a higher level of mental resilience that enable them to endure the unpredicted length of remote working environment with minimum direct contact with co-workers and friends.
4. Lack of Financial Security
Given these unprecedented times, companies have been forced to shut down large portions of their operations. As a result, millions of professional workers have been subject to furlough, job cut, or salary reduction. Meanwhile, it is nearly impossible to find new jobs or start their own business amid this turmoil.
A study showed that those financially affected by the outbreak are experiencing more psychological distress. Without proper assistance, sudden disruption in financial stability may lead to anxiety and depression that eventually will impact on productivity and working performance. Equip your team members with productive wealth strategies as soon as possible to strengthen their financial resilience in coping with this turbulence.