Coming out of lockdown has meant different things to many people but for the majority of us, it smacked of freedom. Freedom to go back to work, to see our families and friends, and we potentially even dared to believe that things were going back to normal – or does it?
You’ve heard of FOMO (fear of missing out), but what about FOGO?
FOGO = “fear of going out”
Many individuals are dealing with this now, especially with being compelled to re-enter their workplace and children going back to school to finish off what is left of the academic year and write their final exams.
The reality is that there is no going back to normal, and as much as we don’t want to hear ‘this is the new normal’, it is. Well for now anyway and the unforeseeable future as the many unknown variables of the pandemic start taking clarity and shape in the numbers and data.
It is going to be critical for everyone to manage their expectations as we head into 2021 with mixed emotions of leaving a tough year behind, fear, and uncertainty yet hoping 2021 is going to have some sense of normalcy.
One thing that has come under a spotlight during this pandemic is the importance of our well-being. Not just physical but also our mental and emotional well-being. And we all know the benefits of it in terms of improved productivity, reduced costs, more innovation, growth, happiness, healthy relationships, etc.
One key component of building healthy relationships is creating psychological safety whether that be at home or in the workplace. In other words, how do we deal with fearful staff and fearful customers?
The pandemic has given us a great opportunity to reimagine our future instead of waiting for it to happen. We’ve had time to reflect on what’s important, what’s not working, what can be improved on, and new opportunities that have appeared.
So how do we create organisational cultures that support this both internally and externally?
Some of the key factors to take into consideration:
- Communicate – you cannot over-communicate to staff and customers on the health and safety steps you have put in place to ensure their safety.
- Support – be supportive of their fears or concerns in helping staff transition back into the workplace.
- Reassure – reassure staff as often as possible and provide information on all the support resources they have access to.
- No ‘one size fits all’ – even though we are all in this together, we are going through different emotions, we process it differently and it impacts us differently, show empathy wherever you can.
- Flexibility – be flexible with easing staff back into the workplace. To build their peace of mind and confidence in the process, you may need to start off with flexible hours, rotating schedules, etc.
From an organization perspective:
- Put well-being on the strategic agenda and put structures in place to reinforce it across the company.
- Recognize well-being achievements and success stories to show employees that you value this – walk the talk.
- Put in place processes that support well-being and promote a culture of trust and psychological safety.
- Involve employees in sharing ideas on how to enhance their well-being and use them to build initiatives that they would support. When people feel like their contribution is being valued and taken into account it results in loyalty, creativity, and innovation.
- Companies will need to relook and possibly re-design every protocol at work from interviews, meetings, meals, bathroom time, commutes, check-ins’ to the building and the list goes on to take into account social distancing requirements which is a huge task.
- Leaders are going to have step up and lead both courageously and empathetically into unchartered territories and what lies ahead for all stakeholders (shareholders, employees, service providers, customers).
- Some leaders have not acquired the skills to manage remotely and have potentially resorted to micro-managing with daily check-ins and to-do lists they are expecting employees to deliver on – develop these skills as remote working is not going away in its entirety.
- Businesses will want to focus on getting productive in order to generate revenue for survival yet some individuals may not easily transition back into a full 9-5 productive working day as they will be used to their ‘adapted’ routine and it may take them time to re-settle in.
- Our job title and role might not have changed but where and how we work has – business and employees will need to potentially up-skill and re-skill themselves in different ways going forward, not just being able to comply with a phased-in work approach but potentially new roles or functions they may need to caretake or step into.
- How will companies handle the potential stigma should an employee have been infected with COVID-19
From a customer perspective:
- Customers are experiencing the same levels of stress, fear, and uncertainty as employees – this can cause them to be overly demanding when it comes to products, pricing, and service delivery.
- Purchasing behaviour has changed as a result (i.e. online shopping and local businesses) so you may need to pivot your services to meet your customers where they are at. Ensure your systems and employees are well versed in this new way of transacting or your risk losing your customers.
- Going that extra mile never hurt anyone, if anything it brings you more business.
- Communicate with customers upfront as to the protocols and systems you have in place so that they don’t come unprepared or feel they have wasted copious time complying which can become a frustration for them.
There are still many unknowns and this only heightens the emotional roller coaster we are all currently experiencing resulting in continued stress, anxiety, fear, low motivation, procrastination, and overwhelm which has a direct impact on all our mental and physical well-being.
FOGO is a real thing, we need to be aware of it and show some compassion, empathy, and understanding in the process.
People won’t care until they know how much you care irrespective of whether it is your employees, customers, or suppliers.