In our last blog post we discussed the importance of open lines of communication between employers and their employees, particularly as it pertains to the unique situations created by COVID-19. Communication, however, is a two-way street and the responsibility for upholding this falls not only on the employer, but on the employee as well.
Employees have a responsibility to be the ones to speak up and ask for help when they need it, or discuss changes they think should be implemented. These are not always easy conversations to have, and often you might not know how to approach the subject.
Here are four issues you may be having and want to discuss with your employer but don’t know how, and some thoughts on how you might structure that conversation.
Your Home Situation Has Changed – and You’re Struggling to Keep Up
As we discussed in our last post, many peoples’ homes have become a mix of office, classroom, kitchen, and playground. Maybe you and a spouse are both working from home and there simply aren’t enough spaces with privacy to be on a call at the same time, and you are forced to stagger your call scheduling. Maybe you are homeschooling your younger children and have greater availability in the afternoons and evening vs the morning hours. The changes in your home situation may affect how you wish to schedule your work hours in order to maximize productivity. So how do you ask your employer to change your work schedule, or for flexibility in your work day?
First and foremost: be honest about what your situation is and how some flexibility will help you to do your best work. Chances are your boss’ situation is not dissimilar, and they too may be homeschooling or working odd hours. Even if they can’t directly relate to your situation, explaining why making your requested change will allow you to be most productive will go a long way in helping your employer understand how this will be beneficial for everyone. Make sure your requests relate back specifically to your work environment, but don’t be afraid to share what it is that’s going on at home.
The Team Structure Has Changed – and You Miss Collaborating
While many people have been brought closer to their families as a result of work-from-home, some have been rendered more distant from their work teams. Many jobs rely heavily on a team dynamic, and you may be struggling to adjust to working collaboratively with your team without being face-to-face. Creative industries in particular often benefit from physical proximity for brainstorming sessions, collaborative writing, idea generation, etc.
So, what can you do? Discuss with your employer if there are simple things the company could do to keep team members connected. We all may be suffering from ZOOM fatigue but there are other ways to stay connected, from IM networks to collaborative document editing programs to occasional small group meetings. If you are going to meet in-person, make sure to maximize the usage of that time. Have a plan ahead of time for who is bringing what, exactly what you will be working on, what you are trying to accomplish, and a timeline for doing so. These instances are rare so you want to be sure to get the most out of them, and not spend half your time looking for files or debating what needs to be done. Make this time as exclusively for team collaboration and creative productivity as possible.
You Have Been Hit with Financial Struggles
We’ve all heard plenty about the ways in which COVID-19 has impacted the global economy. People worldwide across hundreds of industries have been affected, so chances are you might be one of them. Whether it’s been a pay cut in your own job, or the loss of a spouse’s job or income source, money may be tight right now. Undoubtedly this causes a great deal of stress and anxiety. When you are under this kind of stress it can be hard to focus and be productive. Your mind will be fixated on everything but the task at hand. Financial struggles impact your life in ways beyond just your wallet and this is where your employer can help.
You may be sensing a trend here, but the first step is to let your employer know what the situation is. Your company may be struggling as well and not in a position to reverse pay cuts, but may be able to provide some other opportunities or steer you towards additional resources you could access. For example: are they comfortable with you freelancing outside of work hours? Could they offer any type of education or certification classes? Is there a way to restructure your pay agreement to offset the deduction in pay? Even if your employer cannot alleviate your financial issues, they can help you deal with that stress to reduce its impact on your life.
You’re Burned Out.
From COVID-19, to job loss, financial loss, health crisis and civil unrest, the majority of people are feeling overwhelmed, scared, depressed, or anxious right now (or all of the above), both in their work and personal life. Facing these issues head-on is essential to dealing with them. You are not alone in this fight. Your employer and work team can help support you and get you what you need to deal with these struggles. If you are suffering and need support right now, there are many resources available to you – starting here. Whether it’s scheduling a televisit with a therapist or simply allotting 10 minutes a day to meditate via an app like Headspace, there are a multitude of online resources, guides, activities, and databases you can access.
Work-wise, the first step to alleviate some of your worries is to vocalize them. Speaking to someone, whether it be your boss or a friend or coworker is important. Getting these concerns out of only your head and into words helps you look at them objectively and begin to rationalize what it is that is going on. Plus, feeling the support of someone listening to you can go a very long way in making you feel less isolated and alone. Communicate to your boss when you feel overwhelmed, and see how you can offset some of your workload to ensure you don’t burnout. A good boss will hear you, respect your feelings and work to help ensure you are a healthy and happy employee. Remember: you are not working from home. You are at home in the middle of a crisis, trying to work, and we are all in this together.
Image via Jacob Lund – STOCK.ADOBE.COM