Practical steps for employers during this difficult time

We are potentially at a critical inflection point in human history. After major events like the World Wars and 9/11, major social change ensued. Some of this we would ascribe as good, like women entering the work force and a general drive to a more equitable society. Some activities could be argued to be less desirous like an increasing militarisation of society following 9/11 and the invasion of Iraq, and the rise of industrial scale surveillance of citizens from New York to Beijing.

This post provides practical advice to employers and employees with respect to work from home arrangements that many find themselves within, and to begin a more profound conversation about what is the best integrated socio-economic, political and medical response might be to COVID-19. In other words, should we deal with this merely as a medical event, or should the medical impact of the COVID-19 virus be balanced with the social and economic impacts of suggested medical protocols?

So a couple of practical things first. Remote work or work from home is something that all consultants are well adapted to. It is our daily reality because we spend most of professional lives either working at a client site, from home or at a hotel or conference centre.

A couple of practical ideas are as follows:

  1. Working from home might sound like light relief from a hectic office schedule at first, but can quickly become monotonous, boring, with attendant feelings of isolation, anxiety, depression and loneliness. It is critical for employers to understand this mental and emotional impact on employees. Because human beings are inherently social creatures and we have been socialised to work and play within groups and teams, it is important to provide online and telephonic support for employees who might struggle with remote work. Evidence is already mounting in the media of this affect on large numbers of individuals, and providing contact details for company ERP or other support programmes is key.
  2. It is critical for large organisations to communicate with employees about COVID-19 and what health and social distancing measures they should take in order to protect themselves from infection. Employees should always be directed to government media as a single source of truth.  
  3. Also important to share is appropriate information regarding company procedures on leave, working from home, governance and communication protocols during a crisis.
  4. Finally employers should ensure that employees have the technical instruments to work remotely and via telephone and video conference. These items include an appropriate laptop, headphones, speakers, appropriate software to facilitate communication, security software to protect company and customer information, and sufficient bandwidth to support productive work.

Human beings are social creatures and rely on relationships with family, friends and professional colleagues for validation, support, camaraderie and the sharing of experiences and ideas. These are innately human behaviour sets and define our ability to create meaning and context for our lives.

The current COVID-19 crisis and the response lead by (predominantly) health authorities and government might undermine people being able to work productively and we should be aware of and manage the negative economic impact of this position.

What are you doing on a day to day basis to remain stimulated, creative and productive during this difficult time of self-isolation? How are you finding the work from home experience? How are you dealing with the mental, psychological and practical implications of the COVID-19 crisis?