COVID-19 has had a devastating effect on so many lives around the world. Very few have escaped the last eight months unaffected. Economically, many countries’ have been ravaged; COVID, now in its third wave, is continuing to wreak havoc throughout the world.
The good news this past week was a Vaccine created by Pfizer with 90 percent efficacy on the fast track for release, and it appears other potential Vaccines will be coming out shortly as well. A vaccine with this level of effectiveness is a potential game-changer in the fight against COVID, and we can only hope and pray it will be distributed and administered sooner than later to stop the deadly spread.
In the meantime, from an economic standpoint, those who are still fortunate enough to stay employed have proven resilient. While many are unemployed, devastating too many individuals and families, those still working are dealing with different challenges that have made work-life more challenging than ever. It’s difficult not to underestimate the destructive impact COVID-19 has had on the workforce. Here are just a few examples of those who are still employed can relate to:
Layoffs and Furloughs
Promotions / Salary Reviews placed on hold
Sheltered in Place due to government restrictions
Office Space closed (move to work-from-home)
Change in work hours
How are those who are still working dealing with the challenges?
Recent studies indicate that difficulties and changes in the workplace have not harmed workplace resilience. The opposite held. In many cases, the more changes workers experienced in their environment due to COVID, the more resilient they became.
Reminiscent of World War II, with the Blitz bombings of London and other British cities, the assumption was that continued bombing would have a detrimental effect on morale; as the bombing continued, British resolve increased. It seemed that the Brits were at their best when their backs were up against the wall. There are some parallels here with our shared enemy COVID.
For example, in our company, we had to make several critical changes from moving to a virtual office environment and increased technology use. Once decided, the transition, while not perfect, was almost seamless, and we were able to adjust 90% of our workflow with 48-hours. Having experience with change management, I have never seen teams accept change quickly in my professional life. Still, we can’t give ourselves all the credit; there are several reasons why this change brought on by the Pandemic was more manageable than before.
We have a shared unambiguous enemy.
COVID is an invisible yet tangible enemy we can all rally against. COVID is not ambivalent and unclear to most workers. Everyone knows it’s there, it’s in the news every day and affecting those around us, directly and indirectly, and it’s not going away unless we find a way to keep ourselves and each other safe.
Workplace changes are for the good of everyone’s health.
If we don’t follow the protocols, social distance, and wear a mask, we hurt ourselves and others. Most reasonable, empathetic people inherently understand this. More importantly, you can’t work without your health, so keeping ourselves and others healthy helps keep business afloat and maintains your employment.
The technology is readily available.
Technology has been moving towards supporting a remote workforce in many different industries. True, there are some industries where technology has little to no effect. Trades, for example, just need to be done with your hands. No amount of technology will change that anytime soon. Many other businesses already could work remotely; with improvements in information technology over the past few years, the Pandemic was the tipping point that moved them to a fully remote environment. In many cases, businesses are likely to remain remote even after the Pandemic has passed.
The right employees – they love what they do!
Employees who love what they do and are given the autonomy to perform their work using their strengths will survive against all odds. I have been fortunate enough to know those first-hand who continue to persevere and do their jobs despite what was going on around them. Resilience reveals the strength of your hires and their level of engagement.
While resilience has been a bright light in the darkness of COVID, it’s essential for management to remain diligent, look, and listen for signs of burnout. Not every employee will deal with the effects of COVID with the same level of resilience, and everyone has a breaking point. Burnout affects most employees who work from home and have difficulty separating work life from home life and lack their usual outlets. In many regions, gyms are closed or difficult to attend; social outlets are strained and discouraged, and many feel isolated. Keep the lines of communication open with employees and encourage open communication online. We are all social animals and need each other’s help to get through this Pandemic together.