I love the excitement of travelling for holidays. The journey is one of anticipation: adventure awaits and is waiting to be found. New sights, sounds, smells all contribute to the experience and as the senses are awakened, so is the mind.
I find ideas pour in when I am relaxing. The lack of work focus frees creativity releasing ideas which are the seeds of innovation that develop into something great.
Lockdown has been a time of upheaval for most as we experienced significant changes in our daily routines, social interaction, financial and health securities. With more than two thirds of adults in the UK reporting feeling worried about the effect of COVID-19 (Marshall, Bibby, & Abbs, 2020), caused by social isolation, job and financial loss, housing insecurity and quality, loss of coping mechanisms, reduced access to mental health services, working in a front-line service.
So, dare I say that I have enjoyed it?
To be clear, I have been isolated from family and friends, have experienced significant financial loss and business insecurity as a result of the pandemic. Necessity has driven us to look for creative ways forward, rebuilding to embrace the challenges of ‘new normal’ that is still shapeless or at least has fuzzy edges.
The slower pace of life, the less social and professional ‘noise’ has offered the same awakening of the senses I usually associate with travel, ironically when travel restrictions were at the height. Nature seemed more alive and fresher, and time was available for experiencing and appreciating the changing seasons and the seeds of innovation.
Working in the health care sector, I talk to many who experience mental health problems resulting from dealing with the ‘what ifs’: whether its cancer or work-related stress, there are situations that we cannot control that we need to learn to cope with. Learning to manage uncertainty is an important part of staying well and when I recognise that something is beyond my control, I look for the all potential outcomes and plan for each of those. This allows me to take positive steps to be in the best position to manage the actual outcome when it arrives and gives me peace in the meantime knowing that I am in the best shape possible to deal with the uncertainty.
The ‘new normal’ may still be shapeless or fuzzy edged, but it’s likely that we will be looking at technological solutions to rebuild the way we work.
We at Peritus have embraced the use of virtual meetings, healthcare appointments, online shopping, zoom birthday gatherings and celebrated the additional time these arrangements have offered us that can be invested elsewhere. We have found that our customers are happy with remote contact; our clients (patients) are reassured by virtual contact and support; our employees are delighted that the commute has been eliminated; and our accountants are smirking with the reduced overheads.
However, like all things in life, ‘one size never fits all’. Our experience is not necessarily your experience. Let me explain.
Many people do their work because it’s an opportunity for social engagement. They do many of their tasks as part of teams, and if when they’re working alone, there are plenty of opportunities for social interaction during work’s quiet moments (Schwartz, 2015). We need to consider how to address this need in employees otherwise someone else can.
Some people have small living spaces with nowhere to sit at a laptop which allows for good ergonomic posture and musculo-skeletal problems are inevitable.
Some families still have children who do scream in the same room as the working parent, whether it is with joy or frustration, it’s their home as well as the parent’s workspace and at times they don’t combine well.
Survivors of restructures are often left with feelings of anxiety and insecurity (Haddon, 2017) and potentially, the additional negative emotions experienced during the pandemic if not addressed can ripple through the workforce.
If we don’t acknowledge individuals in the equation, as senior leaders, we will have failed our most important resources and in doing so potentially threatened further the security of our business.
Burgeoning literature indicates that people who have experienced loss or other traumatic events often see themselves and others in a different light, re-evaluating their priorities and appreciating life in a new way (Ed. Snyder & Lopez, 2009). Imagine a whole workforce contemplating re-evaluating their priorities at the same time, the results of which may be problematic at best and devastating at worse.
What and how colleagues are feeling in light of the pandemic will remain unknown if we don’t ask and listen. Communication remains key, whether face to face or virtually, we need to understand the impact of change on them, their home life, their work priorities and aspirations and take them with us into the ‘new normal’, encouraging their creative thinking to sow more seeds of innovation and growing those great ideas for the future.
I am grateful for the input of the team that remained at work for fighting for the future of our business. I am also grateful to the furloughed team for their forbearance, loyalty innovation and ideas on their return to work.
We didn’t get it right all the time and there were wrong decisions made for the right reasons.
We are back together however learning to readjust and trying to settle into the ‘new normal’ way of operating, ways which have developed in the 5 months of furlough that those returning are trying to understand by telepathy at times.
Unfortunately, as much as I like the idea of telepathy and uploading knowledge directly into the brain by USB stick, no-one has been innovative enough to develop it … yet. In the mean time, all business leaders will have to tackle very new challenges in the area of employee wellbeing / occupational health and do so with very little prior experience as well as a totally different and technologically more modern workplace.
We at Peritus Health Management are here to help. We don’t have all of the answers, but we do understand the importance of health, training, working practices and how they are impacted by employee working environments and relationships.
Managing Director, Peritus Healh Management.
Ed. Snyder, C., & Lopez, S. J. (2009). Oxford Handbook of Positive Psychology.Oxford University Press.
Haddon, J. (2017, 08 29). Survivor Syndrome – how redundancies affect the staff that remain.Retrieved from People Management: https://www.peoplemanagement.co.uk/experts/advice/survivor-syndrome-redundancies
Marshall, L., Bibby, J., & Abbs, I. (2020, June 18). Emerging evidence on COVID-19s impact on mental health and health inequalities.Retrieved from The Health Foundation: https://www.health.org.uk/news-and-comment/blogs/emerging-evidence-on-covid-19s-impact-on-mental-health-and-health
Schwartz, B. (2015). Why We Work.Simon and Schuster.