Few people are immersed in anxiety about our work and sticky office politics like Alison Green, who has been asking questions at work for a decade now on her website. Ask a Manager. In Live report, he highlights the themes from his inbox that help explain the modern workplace and how we can better navigate it.
Because COVID-19 ruined everything about the way we work, many entrepreneurs with new staff who are far away are trying to find ways to support employees emotionally during these strange and trying times. In an effort to relieve employee stress and build friendships, some companies rely heavily on things like virtual happy hours, team play on Slack or Zoom, and personal check-in centered on mental health. But in the process, some actually increased employees are stressed rather than alleviating it.
Some of them are exhausted because of the many activities, but some of them because the initiative itself feels more disturbing than supportive.
This is how you do it overwhelmed people describes the various efforts of his company:
• My manager organizes a weekly Skype team chat check-in.
• The manager has one we all attend.
• There is an anonymous questionnaire to check people’s emotional state.
• There are web pages that are prepared only for company COVID news.
• My managers send about five emails per day to share news articles that show how COVID is affecting our industry.
• An information package about mental health support and resources has been sent by email.
• There are three remote meetings throughout the company to discuss this issue.
• Some people on the overlapping team have started organizing “fun” activities via office e-mail.
• We also have a WhatsApp team which is a constant flow of memes and humor related to COVID.
The latest is the “friend system” that the company has launched. Fully voluntary, where you can register to be paired with other employees with “similar interests” so you can have friends to talk to about what you are going through. And I can’t think of anything that I want to do less. But my manager immediately asked me if I was thinking about registering. … While the movements are fun, all these small initiatives at work make me more stressed, not less.
This is it other people who feel equally overwhelmed:
I have been added to Slack channels throughout the company to be social and supportive during quarantine which I cannot mute or leave, there is a social quarantine “fun” challenge at the start of all-hand meetings (the best photos of pets worn for work! Work clothes- best from-home! best zoom photo happy hour!) and now I get chain email requests to share new recipes to try while working from home (I don’t cook at the best of times, and I have both the time and energy to get started now) . There were sessions on ergonomics working from home, stress psychology and working from home, and how to be supportive when working from home.
I have more meetings now than I ever did in the office, and this also conjured up a full workload.
Many managers also try to examine people’s mental health – not a bad idea in theory, but can be done in a way that is feels annoying and overstepping:
I have a line manager who doesn’t always have a good relationship with me, and I’m tired of constant “mental health checks” with someone whose intentions I don’t fully trust and I prefer to only interact with on work-based topics. Now I am expected to discuss my mental health challenges with strangers who don’t pay professionals ?!
No one should discuss their mental health with their boss if they don’t want to. But that means managers need to accept vaguely intentional answers like “I’m fine” and “still survive” – a sign that the person might not want to share more. Some managersHowever, ignoring these signals and pushing past the boundaries most people like with their employer:
During our weekly team meetings, my supervisor began asking everyone to answer the question, “How are you emotionally and mentally?” … I just went “good” quickly and then changed the subject, but I started getting some pushback like, “OK, but is it right, How are you?”
Do I really have to share my feelings? And if my feelings “everything burns and I worry about death all the time,” how can I say that to my manager in a way that doesn’t alienate everyone?
(Companies that truly care about employees’ mental health would be better off offering and promoting CPB and strong health insurance so employees can have access to trained professionals, rather than expecting managers to act as therapists – roles that by definition they cannot fill without contrary to their main role.)
But not everyone postpones this effort to provide support. Some people do it want more connections from their current partner:
I really struggle to adjust to this new reality. We collaborate online and stay in touch, but not the same. I have to make a concerted effort to talk with people now and I am constantly worried that I disturb people or divert them from their work. I didn’t realize how much I relied on work for stability until this happened. … I know it will help if my manager checks in with me on the phone every day or two, but I don’t know how to ask without looking needy and I feel like I’m going to waste my time.
One reader on HR reports that his company does a lot of the outreach described above and people still urge to more:
I am in the HR department at a large company so my team is responsible for implementing many of these things. This is definitely not a personal cup of tea, but you will be amazed at how many people are asking for more than what we have done. And not only from people and other HR leaders but employees at all levels ask for it.
When some people want this kind of support at work and others feel overwhelmed and pressured by it, the key to balancing these different needs is to make a choice. It’s okay to offer virtual happy hours and hunting for the Zoom hunt and pet challenges and the rest, as long as there is no pressure to participate and people can easily opt out without penalty. And that means really no penalty – don’t say it’s optional but then look at people who didn’t participate or tell them repeatedly how much they missed.
It is also important for employers to not only provide lip service to the desire to support employees; they need to show it in a way that carries a real burden. In fact, what is most disturbing some workers is that when they are overloaded with Zoom happy hour, their employers don’t do things that will really help:
My company has flooded us with emails from all weekly staff about Spotify playlists working from home, weekly pub quizzes, online “daily walking” groups, video messages from the CEO, etc. What they can actually do is allow more flexibility around the output, but this is “business output as usual plus hours of video calls” and everyone works the weekend to follow. I don’t even have children, and the parents in my team barely put them together, but somehow I was still expected to attend a virtual weekly city hall on a costume theme.
What would be far more useful than quizzes and playlists for employers to make real changes to people’s workloads and deadlines; offering as much flexibility as possible around the schedule and, when work is done, adjust productivity expectations downward; provide more paid leave; and encourage people to continue working from home in the long run when their role allows. These are things that employees really want – but they are much more difficult to provide.
to request modification Contact us at Here or [email protected]