The dramatic change in how large portions of the workforce now go about their daily lives has brought about a range of challenges that most of us were never prepared for. While living the digital nomad lifestyle seemed appealing to many people, the reality was rather different.
Unfortunately, the reality is quite different—especially under COVID-19 circumstances.
It’s not all bad, though, as some companies are taking the opportunity to reinvent the way they operate and ensure that the future of work looks better.
The situation has also highlighted some easily changed areas with tweaks to policies and investment into cloud-based technology. People had also learned valuable lessons about the pace of life and what they were possibly doing wrong before they were forced into social distancing.
That being said, some new healthcare-related challenges have cropped up that a manager or business leader needs to be on the lookout for. These are especially relevant for companies that made the sudden shift to working remotely.
Remote Work Burnout
Work burnout is always a concern in any job. If an employee puts a lot into their work and doesn’t take time to find balance in their lives, it can lead to burnout. This point is even easier to reach when working remotely because staff isn’t in the office for anyone to see how many hours they’re putting in.
Staff who have suddenly switched to working remote may also not have the skills or practices in place to set proper work-life boundaries. Suddenly, the office is part of the space they relax in, and it’s hard to differentiate between the two states of work and relaxation. Because employees aren’t going out as much, it’s easier to say yes to working those extra hours in the evening or on weekends.
As a manager, it’s essential to look after your staff’s mental well-being as far as it relates to their working hours. Pay attention to those working longer hours – sending an email late at night or in the early hours of the morning. Take the time to have one-on-one conversations with everyone in your team to see if they have boundaries in place for office hours and home life.
Managing the needs of a remote team differs from the leadership needed in an in-office scenario. Good leaders pay attention to how staff responds to change and whether or not they’re attaining a work/life balance.
We’ve all hailed videoconferencing as an absolute savior in these times.
Platforms such as Zoom, Teams, Skype, and Google Meet have allowed businesses to hold meetings, facilitate collaboration, and ensure staff is in contact with each other.
However, studies have shown that these platforms are not a good enough substitute for the real thing. In a paper he wrote in February 2021, Professor Jeremy Bailenson of the Stanford Virtual Human Interaction Lab assessed the impact of regularly using videoconferencing for prolonged periods.
The name Zoom Fatigue came about because the platform became synonymous with videoconferencing in much the same way Google is synonymous with searching for something online. The symptoms that Bailenson identified apply to the use of any videoconferencing platform used on a computer, tablet, or smartphone.
The reasons for this physical fatigue relate to:
- Constantly watching the screen and the participants in the call—There is a much greater instance of eye contact in a video call than in an in-person meeting. At the same time, this eye contact isn’t as rewarding as in-person eye contact.
- Watching yourself—We can’t watch what we are doing or see how we look in the real world. But this is not the case in a video call. Watching yourself endlessly is unnatural, and for many people, quite unnerving.
- Staying still for longer—Movement is usually limited when on a video call, especially when using your computer. In the office or normal social settings, we are moving around a lot more.
- Missing non-verbal communication—Even with the help of video technology, we are missing the subtle cues that come with non-verbal communication. This makes it harder to read situations and people.
It’s important to be cognizant of this new form of fatigue and what could be bringing it on.
Make sure your staff are also aware of it and can take steps to combat it should they notice the symptoms. Steps you can take to help your staff avoid Zoom Fatigue include taking breaks between calls and allowing them to disable the camera when in a meeting.
Uncertainty About What Happens Next
One of the major issues that have cropped up during these times is extreme uncertainty about the future. This can lead to high-stress levels, or at worst, mental breakdowns. The mental health toll of the pandemic is proving incredibly high, and it’s something managers, and business owners need to consider.
Even if the company is on solid footing after all the upheaval and job security isn’t an issue for employees, there is still a lot of uncertainty in the world. People are unsure how long they will have to continue working remotely if it is safe to travel, if there could be another wave coming around the corner, and various other unknowns.
As a business leader, you can at least give your staff some certainty as to what their future looks like at the company. Start to make plans for a gradual return to the office and be transparent about how this will look. You can also talk openly to your staff about what they would like things to look like in the future when the worst of the pandemic is over.
Making Healthcare Assistance Accessible
In the wake of the pandemic, staff at every level are facing a myriad of healthcare challenges. Tackling this head-on is a sign of good leadership and promotes a positive work culture.
Offering employees the support they need means being accessible, and as far as possible, making healthcare services accessible too. Engaging staff in discussions about their health and well-being is the first step, and offering solutions is the second.
Listen to what they have to say, help them access the assistance they need—whether this is talking openly about challenges they’re facing, encouraging a balanced lifestyle, or helping them to seek professional assistance from a medical professional, every action counts.
Navigating the current workplace landscape isn’t easy for all stakeholders. If leaders acknowledge and address the healthcare challenges their staff is facing, it will create a better, more productive working environment at every level.
About the Author: Kelly Lowe is a passionate writer and editor with a penchant for topics covering business and entrepreneurship. When she's not tapping away at her keyboard writing articles, she spends her free time either trying out different no-bake recipes or immersing herself in a good book.