2020 May 15
In an attempt to revive the economy of Sri Lanka, the Government has decided to allow organisations and workplaces to open doors to their staff and customers on a restricted basis. Having just accustomed to working from home, this shift back into commuting to work and spending hours away from family can be difficult to re-adjust to. While still at a health risk from exposure to the COVID-19 virus, other concerns such as reviving the business and coping with new deadlines can affect the mindsets of both employees and employers alike.
Mr. Rukmal De Silva, the founder of 361 Degrees, pioneers in corporate training and team building, was contacted to provide the public with advice on how to ease their mental transition back to the office.
1. Accepting your “new” reality
Be it employer or employee, the first step in mentally coping with the “new normal” is through awareness and acceptance of reality. For employers, it is vital for you to acknowledge that some, if not most, of your business operations, will not run as they used to. Concurrently, you should also keep in mind that society has changed as well, which may have an effect on your main markets. You need to understand that the impact brought about by the pandemic does not affect your businesses alone, and should not take any complications on a personal level. The key to turning the tables at this stage is the re evaluation of business models, strategies and processes to adapt to this change.
2. Be empathetic towards the concern of your employees.
Moreover, employers need to empathise with the concerns of your employees and should not force their return to work unless absolutely necessary. Some may not be willing to turn up until a vaccine is found, as a precaution to avoid infecting any children or senior citizens they may have living with them. Therefore, keeping up and maybe even improving the work from home tradition should be seen as a means of retaining human resource and employee satisfaction within the company, rather than an obstacle to business development. It is also critical for organisations to provide their employees with constant direction and assurance in their search for a sense of control and familiarity during this time.
3. Encourage communication.
Similar to an employer’s point of view of their business, individuals in the workforce need to remind yourselves that you are not alone; nearly the entire planet’s working population is experiencing what you are going through. It is quite normal to feel a sense of uncertainty, fear and frustration as a consequence of returning to work. Friendly, frequent interactive communication with friends and colleagues at work helps in creating a sense of togetherness within the establishment and has been recommended as a coping mechanism for any sense of loneliness you or other employees may be experiencing.
4.Changing your perspective changes your experience.
Needless to say, yet another effective fix for the lingering feeling of gloom and mellowness is a simple change in perspective. Looking at one of the positive outcomes as a result of the imposed lockdown, the world has seen nature thriving like never before in recent years. Drawing inspiration from this, it is recommended we all spend some time learning how wildlife has adapted over years with change brought about humans, climate, natural disasters and many more factors.
Some of the textbook examples of animal mentalities that could be adopted in your return to work are as follows:
- The life of a bee is such that it is always busy and spreads positivity by bringing honey to its hive. Each bee, no matter how insignificant they may think they are, are all a part of an integral cog that upkeeps the maintenance of their hive. An organisation is no different and everyone should aim at creating a positive and bustling work environment.
- Lions, despite being named the “kings of the jungle” are not seen waiting for their preys to come to them on a silver platter. They are hunters. The put in the hard work and chase their prey at every opportunity they are presented with. Returning to work brings with it new possibilities and opportunities, waiting for you to pounce on and be conquered.
- Dogs have been fondly named “man’s best friend” for a reason. With hearts twice the size of themselves, a dog focusses and matches human emotion. Constant words of encouragement, workplace playfulness and even sometimes being a shoulder to lean on goes a long way in helping lift someone’s spirits when they are feeling down.
Other animals that we can learn from are parrots, who are excellent at narrating their emotions, swans, who enjoy the best of both worlds and cheetahs, who are strategists and quick on their feet. While not everyone may be able to relate any of the above, reflection on oneself and relating to wildlife behaviour will help you find an animal whose behaviour you resonate with. This also helps instill a sense of humbleness through the process of being closer to nature.
With adaptation viewed as a continuous learning process, experts have foreseen the Sri Lankan work culture constantly undergoing change well into the year 2021. This period will have impacts of varying magnitude on the country’s workforce. In order to play and win at this new survival game, mental health should not be compromised for physical safety. As such, small acts of kindness, a change in mentality and strengthening each other along the way will definitely help in ensuring a quick and happy work-life for everyone in the new “normal” Sri Lanka.