With the horrific wildfires that are burning throughout the West, I hope you are safe. Please be cautious. Take care of your family, colleagues, and communities. Given that both wildfires and the pandemic are raging, we need to come together and support one another. Please reach out to me, firstname.lastname@example.org, if there is anything that I can do for you.
It’s back-to-school season, but this year is like no other. Some of you have kids in school, or in school part of the time, and others of you have young ones at home or kids schooling at home. None of this is easy as the pandemic drags on. And, it isn’t just taking care of kids. Many of you have extended family and elders in your care and have concerns about their health and well-being. These and other circumstances can be taking place while you also are paying attention and attending to your own needs and resilience.
We need to remember that working at home can be very difficult. For some, the stress is related to taking care or homeschooling kids; for others, the stressors are not always evident by their home situation and may be unknown to us as employers, rightly so.
Some of you may feel that you have adapted, maybe even that the organization has hit a new groove but remember, not everyone’s experience is the same. Reach out to colleagues. When you first implemented work-at-home, it was temporary. Folks stretched to do it. Now this is dragging on, and that takes a toll. We need to continually acknowledge the challenge of balancing work and personal lives in these new circumstances.
Here are some things you can do to help people that may be having challenges keeping up with kids and other responsibilities at home:
- When you are in Zoom meetings with your colleagues and interruptions happen, and they will, make it clear that it is totally fine. Say hello to kids and pets. Make sure everyone knows it is okay to put a call on hold or to go off-camera.
- Encourage staff who are homeschooling, providing care to others, or addressing other personal needs to block time on their calendar to focus on those responsibilities. Clear communication helps everyone to coordinate around those scheduling constraints.
- Allow staff to work flexible schedules. Maybe the best time for them to get work done is early in the morning, during the kids’ afternoon nap, and/or later in the evening. Work that doesn’t require collaborating with colleagues can be done during those early and late hours. Again, clear communication is key.
- If you are doing a video call, remember that you are a guest, entering someone’s home. You wouldn’t comment about a blank wall, a cluttered bookcase, or scattered toys in-person, so you shouldn’t in a video call either.
- We’re six months in, and video fatigue is real. Just because you can meet on video doesn’t mean you have to; sometimes a phone call will work just as well. Phone calls allow folks to stand up and move around, which is better for their health and maybe allows for a walk-by check-in on the kids too.
- Plan to end calls 10 minutes early so folks can have a quick break between calls. If you must schedule a long meeting or virtual retreat, be sure to take short breaks every hour or longer breaks after a two-hour meeting so folks can attend to kids, pets, and other responsibilities.
- Frequently check in on the physical and mental health of colleagues, while also respecting people’s privacy. Consider adding employee assistance programs and increased mental health services to your employee health plan.
For additional tips on handling stressors in these challenging times, TREC is offering a series of your four webinars on resiliency and managing change. Be sure to sign up for any and all that you can.
Also, check out TREC resources on our COVID Response page, including the Sample Temporary Employee Policy. If your organization implemented time-limited policies for work-at-home or travel limitations, it might be timely to revisit and extend those as conditions surrounding the virus have prolonged. You might also be interested in the recording of a webinar we did entitled Designing and Facilitating Virtual Meetings for Humans.
Again, please stay safe out there with the dual threats of wildfire and the pandemic. Take care of yourselves and each other. Let me, or any of us at TREC, know if we can assist you in any way.