You’ll find lots of ideas and hints about productivity, communication and tools for leaders. You can learn about motivation, team spirit, even healthy nutrition and stiff necks💆 (remember?).
But let’s have a quick chat about one of your most important tasks in an increasingly virtual working environment : as an executive, you have the duty of care. Meaning, you have a responsibility for your employees’ physical and psychological well-being. Not only towards those who have to reconcile family and work from home. But especially for those employees who are there by themselves. Who miss social interaction, and for whom loneliness can become a burden.
These team members are especially at risk of being overlooked. Why is this so? We love to be with other people, to spend time with friends and family. Feeling lonely, maybe living without a partner or friend at the moment is not part of society’s expectations. Sitting there all by yourself you might feel ashamed or sad, not wanting to make others aware of your grief and uneasiness. So what’s your task as a leader then? Let’s take a look!
HOW IT’S DONE
Talk about your own feelings. It is often especially difficult for people who
Observe. Do you notice any behavioral changes? Do certain people suddenly become untypically quiet? Do they seem sad or worried? Are they difficult to approach? Or do they suddenly become harsh? Do conflicts arise that were not there before? Watch out for these alarm signals as they might be a call for help.
Seek dialogue. Check in with affected employees more often. Ask them how they are doing, what they find difficult about their home office situation, but also what they like about it. A direct chat is a simple, unobtrusive way to get in touch more often. Anyway: it is always a good idea to spend a few minutes on personal issues when you call your employees.
Talk about your own feelings. It is often especially difficult for people who feel isolated to talk about their situation. Often (not always) they are less extroverted. It can help them if you act as a role model and talk about what you are worried about, what you are happy about and what you hope for. And then ask: „And how about you right now?“ This way, you help them to gain confidence and open up.
Don’t judge their feelings. When was the last time you found it helpful when someone told you, „No need to be sad“? You see, that’s never helped anyone. The last thing your employee needs to hear right now is that there’s something wrong with their feelings. Show understanding and emphasize that it is OK to feel sad, worried, afraid, etc. Ask how you can support them.
Buddy system: maybe you can delegate tasks in a manner that the person concerned does not work entirely alone, but has frequent need to coordinate with other employees. This way you create more interaction.
You are (probably) not a psychotherapist. Therefore, stay on the ball: Do your measures bring out a positive change? Does the person seem more balanced, more satisfied? If so, great! Keep up the good work. But if negative signs are increasing and you are seriously starting to worry, please do not hesitate to ask a professional for help. There will most certainly be members of your organization whose task it is to support you in this matter. Don’t hesitate to find out who this might be – many times, your colleagues from the HR department are ready to stand by your side!