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Voice of the Employee

The sudden introduction of mass remote working that began over two months ago was a paradigm shift for many companies, with businesses across the country rapidly adapting to new ways of working.

The Coronavirus crisis has added an extra layer of stress and concern to our everyday lives, and it can be hard to concentrate and remain motivated at work.

In a survey from leading business psychology provider The Myers-Briggs Company timed to coincide with  World Wellbeing Week, almost half 47% of respondents were somewhat or very concerned about their ability to manage stress during the crisis.

Although restrictions in the UK are beginning to ease, many organisations will continue to work from home for much of the foreseeable future. In fact, research from The New Normal report by Dynata, the world’s largest first-party data and insight platform, found that three-quarters of people expect to work from home more often after the lockdown.

While there are clear benefits to an increase in remote working – flexibility, increased time with family, and reduced commuting – supporting employees’ wellbeing virtually can be difficult to facilitate.

Some of the primary concerns people highlighted in The Myers-Briggs Company’s survey were the economy going into a recession, health of family and friends, and the public not following guidance. These stressors can be difficult to address within the limitations of virtual working, where communication can be stilted and a lack of face-to-face interaction makes it harder to check in with colleagues regularly or pick up on physical and verbal cues that someone may not be coping. Presenteeism is also harder to pick up on in a virtual environment, and managers can’t assume that because people are online, they are being productive.

John Hackston, Head of Thought Leadership at The Myers-Briggs Company advises, “The things that concern you will depend on your personal circumstances, the situation that you find yourself in, but also on who you are – your personality. It is essential that both managers and employees have an understanding of how different personality types respond to certain situations, and how best they can thrive in a remote working environment. For example, extraverts should be encouraged to connect with people socially, as well as for meetings and work, like calling people just to say “hi”. Whereas introverted team members may find themselves getting absorbed in their work, so they should be encouraged to move around and take regular breaks.”

“People feel afraid to talk about things like having difficulty concentrating, because they’re already worried for their jobs and don’t want to be seen as ‘slacking’, when they’re not. On the flip side, presenteeism doesn’t necessarily equate to productivity, and the pressure to be ‘always on’ in a virtual environment can have detrimental effects on morale and productivity. The fact that most of us are working remotely, with less easy communication and more room for misunderstanding, makes things worse.

“This is a natural outcome of the current situation, and organisations in which employees are more aware of their self and others will be more likely to fare well in these challenging times. Recognising this and having the tools to talk to employees about their experience allows managers to understand what stress looks like in different people and how to support them to maintain resilience.”

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