Zoom Fatigue. WFH with Virtual School. The New Era of Employee Concerns. What can Leaders to do to be Supportive?

COVID-19 has added a new layer of complexity to employee concerns. Zoom Fatigue is real. The lack of small talk and quick casual conversation that generally occurs in the hallways and at colleagues’ desks has been replaced with video conferencing. This virtual office formality is compounded by the fact that many employees are in the sandwich generation, caring for elderly parents who they can no longer see with the ease they used to, and monitoring their children’s virtual school work along with ongoing emails from the school district regarding the changes to their schedule. Employees, especially employees who are people of color, are also struggling with the country’s race relations and current political landscape. All in all it is a very fraught situation. People are tired, to put it mildly.

Culturupt has seen the impact of this struggle on employees and leaders. It has come out in 360s, culture audits, and in workplace investigations. Leaders are now, more than ever, disconnected with their teams. So, what are good leaders doing? How are they bringing their teams together? How are they demonstrating empathy in a stressful work environment?

Create Meaningful Moments

Like all relationships, communication is key. The leaders who take the time each week to simply sit and listen to their direct reports without interrupting or trying to problem solve, are engaging in meaningful discourse. Half of the problem that we see in workplace investigations time and time again, is that people fail to listen and talk to one another directly and in an authentic manner. Don’t resort to slack and team chats for that meaningful time, spend the time really understanding how your employees are feeling and what may be overwhelming them in and out of work. One of the tools that we use frequently in group trainings is simply set a timer for 2 minutes and listen to what the other person has to say. You’ll be surprised how hard it is to stay focused and completely present on that other person for 2 minutes without interrupting. People often remark afterward that the silence and listening part was the most meaningful part of their interaction in a training.

Understand the Rigors of Life

School looks different for so many working parents, some students are on hybrid and back at school, others are home and learning virtually. No matter the age of the students, this change in schedule has wreaked havoc on most parents who have to adjust to childcare responsibilities while working. On the other end, employees that are taking care of elderly parents or family have other concerns and household responsibilities. The leaders we have seen who are most successful in navigating this turbulent time recognize that work can be done at any time, and they are flexible in their expectations that things may move slower and deadlines won’t always be met. I have heard from a number of employees who tell me that they’re burnt out and their manager doesn’t understand how burnt out they are. Or their manager is unwilling to take away assignments and workload. The empathetic leaders who redistribute work assignments and recognize that additional resources may be needed garner high ratings from their teams. Teams will look different this year, what can you do to make your team’s experience more rewarding?

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