Today is Blue Monday, the third Monday in January, seems a little late after Boris’s announcement on Monday 4 January sending us into lockdown! The name Blue Monday evolved because it is thought to be one of the gloomiest days of the year due to the cold and dark, and post-Christmas blues and bills!
These factors are not specific to just one Monday, however, and this has the potential to be a really challenging time for employee motivation. This blog will explore some key points for managers to consider, to look after their team (and themselves) and to help them to feel engaged.
Working from home or in a bubble?
At this point some employees may now have been working from home for ten months (nearly a year!), which is not necessarily what anybody would have expected at the start of the pandemic. Working from home can result in efficiencies, such as time saved by not having to commute, but it can also feel a bit like working in a bubble, without the same sense of shared purpose.
As such, it is especially important for employees to be aware of the organisational goals, and how the activities they undertake feed into these. The organisational goals may have changed and developed in recent months, and whilst business leaders will be very attuned to these, it is important that employees understand the current picture and their role in it too. Providing opportunities for employees to ask questions and make suggestions will also help to achieve employee buy-in and further boost engagement.
Are you really “fine”?
When asked how you are, it can be easy to reply that you are “fine” out of habit. But are you really fine? Many people have different challenges that they are facing at the moment – juggling childcare and home schooling with work, working in a cramped space at home, caring for vulnerable relatives, etc. Others may even be recovering from Covid, and struggling with ongoing symptoms known as long Covid.
The ask twice campaign encourages asking a second time if people are really ok, to encourage them to open up about any difficulties it might be helpful for them to speak about. Managers can further encourage people to share the challenges they face by asking questions based on information they know, e.g. “did your Mum have her vaccine ok?”. Employers cannot fix everything, but can identify possible options to help. E.g. if an employee is struggling with the dark evenings, can their work schedule be arranged to allow for a lunchtime walk?
Don’t forget employees on furlough leave!
The coronavirus job retention scheme (known to most as furlough leave) is currently due to close at the end of April 2021, and so employees who have been on furlough leave for some time may now be beginning to worry about what will happen. Will they be coming back to work? If so, what will have changed, and what will their job be like when they come back? The View HR team have another blog coming up soon to help employers plan for the end of furlough leave, however, for now it is important that employees on furlough leave are kept up-to-date on key business developments, and that managers check-in with them from time-to-time about their wellbeing. This is allowed under the rules for furlough leave, and can help to facilitate a smoother transition back to work.