Some have called it a global pandemic of unemployment, as we all come to terms with these changes that came about and continue to manifest in the COVID-19 aftermath.
Beyond the fear of being infected lies the greater fear of being unemployed, and while we wait to hear about the status of our jobs, we grapple with the effects of going several months with reduced income as we did over the past few months. We are progressively aware that the real impact of COVID-19 on our lives was not just something we could freeze into that lockdown period, because increasingly, the losses in income and jobs are translating into losses of homes, stability, security, relationships, and general status.
It is not just the self-employed, the gig-workers, and the freelancers being affected. Even those with seemingly stable jobs carry some degree of anxiety because somewhere in their respective value chain, the pandemic would have caused a disruption whose consequences are slowing trickling into their everyday reality. The burning platform as we used to say is, what is the HR office going to do to support colleagues in their quest to deliver on the corporate mandate they are charged with?
In a previous article I spoke about job re-design, to facilitate work-from-home options, and argued that each employer would have to conduct their own cost-benefit analysis and determine which of their job families would be eligible for work-from-home options, and which could be placed on alternative work schedules to facilitate the requisite social distancing and other safety protocols that are now part of our reality to the foreseeable future. The inconvenient truth is, after all the review and revision of job design, there will be those that are deemed superfluous to the organisational requirements and laid-off.
So, we all understand the tangible and structural implications. But, how many of us in HR are talking about and lobbying for the provision of emotional support for a workforce that is essentially working in panic mode? Stress, anxiety, panic, fear and continued uncertainty, as well as other strong emotions as
Feelings of irritation, anger, or restlessness; uncertainty, nervousness, or anxiety
Lacking motivation, feeling tired, overwhelmed, or burned out
Feeling sad or depressed, struggling to concentrate
Feelings of inadequacy in the face of new communication technologies and devices used for virtual interactions at work – you don’t have access to them, you don’t know how to use them, you don’t know how to adapt to them
The HR office might facilitate opportunities and provide platforms where colleagues can share these experiences, so that staff can share coping mechanisms, agree solutions that benefit the team, and just debrief, but more importantly, so that facts about COVID-19, and about decisions made about job design and possible redundancies, impact on salaries and other commonly held concerns can be shared in a way that is both official and transparent.
The message to share is that we are all in an unusual situation with limited options, and, it is nobody’s fault, and most importantly, we are all trying to do the best we can, so if there are gaps noted, they are part of the learning curve.
The message to emphasise is, as difficult as this burden is, we have no excuse to become irresponsible. However our job has changed, we will continue to deliver with diligence and mindfulness. Let’s keep safe and stay strong colleagues. Have a productive week.
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Please note however that in cases of specific work-related grievances and disputes submitted, Shameela Winston will not pronounce opinions nor prescribe remedies. Thank you.