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Businesses around the world are re-opening their offices and welcoming back employees who have been working from home for nearly three months. However, this doesn’t represent a return to business as usual. There are myriad physical challenges of returning to the office, like maintaining social distancing and accommodating colleagues still working from home. Senior executives must prepare to help employees cope with the lingering psychological impacts of this crisis.

“Feelings of stress and anxiety don’t disappear when the workday begins,” said Dr. Mark Bojeun, Director of Program Management at Skyline Technologies Solutions and author of “Program Management Leadership: Creating Successful Team Dynamics.” “People are worried about their health and the health of their families, daycare options for the kids, what they will do if schools don’t re-open in the fall, and paying the bills.”

That is one of the key takeaways from a virtual roundtable our colleague Beverly Rubin, Clarizen’s VP of Global HR, recently moderated. Click this link to access the recording anytime.

A recent MetLife survey found that a majority of people are more concerned with their financial health than their physical health and maintaining social interactions.

Panelist Steven Hunt, PH.D., is Chief Expert, Work & Technology at SAP North America, and an industrial-organizational psychologist. He said business leaders should expect employees to look to them for help in overcoming the stress and anxieties financial uncertainties create.

“Of course, you can’t guarantee salaries won’t be reduced, but be transparent about first reducing salaries before taking steps to reduce headcount,” he added. “Also, consider providing employees with advice or working sessions with financial advisors on how to reduce household budgets and manage their finances. They will feel more in control of their finances, and that’s critical to their ability to cope with their anxieties.”

Suzanne Rudnitzki, Chief Operating Officer at Smarsh, added that it’s essential for managers and senior leadership to acknowledge that employees are struggling with these stressors.

“I can’t tell you how many notes I’ve received from my Smarsh colleagues thanking me for acknowledging that they are parents, and they are stressed out, “says Rudnitzki. “It’s not realistic for someone who is a great engineer to also be an outstanding second-grade teacher for their kids. They’re mutually exclusive, you’re not a failure if your child doesn’t understand a lesson.”

While the world takes tentative steps to re-open, global health officials warn the threat of a second wave of coronavirus infection looms. In the U.S., 21 states have reported increases in new cases over the last two weeks (although it’s important to note that the increase is due in part to the steady ramping up of states’ testing capacities).

The daily act of putting on a face mask before stepping out the door and remaining conscious of social distancing recommendations serves as a constant reminder of the pandemic. When Beverly polled attendees on whether they want to return to their offices or continue working from home, the majority (70%) indicated they want to work from home full time or most of the time.

“We should set all of our employees up for success, including those who want to work from home,” said David Walters OnePM System Manager at Siemens Energy. “We’ve all been forced to compress five years of technological evolution into five months, and now we can use our shared experiences to empower teams to give them a choice to say ‘I’m comfortable working from home.’”

Among the other topics, our panelists addressed were the permanent changes the pandemic will have on peoples’ preferred workstyles. Follow this link to listen to the entire session entitled “The New Normal? How the Global Pandemic Will Change the Way People Work”.

Several attendees submitted questions that our panelists didn’t have time to address before the hour was up. They’ve agreed to do so on our blog, so be sure to subscribe.

Additionally, Clarizen’s new ebook, “Powering Remote Work”, can serve as an invaluable guide for how to achieve the business agile goals you established before the pandemic struck. Please follow this link to download your free copy.

Anne Catambay
Anne Catambay, VP Global Marketing
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