I should preface this by saying I have scheduled telework days. From December – March I had two days a week. When I switched companies and locations, the contract didn’t grant scheduled telework days, only ad hoc, until September when I got one scheduled telework day.
Now, I enjoy scheduled telework days because that means the day before I can pack up everything that I’m going to need for the following day. I can take my hard copy files home with me to reference so that working on a tiny screen doesn’t feel so cumbersome. When I left for my scheduled telework day back in March, I was already advised to start taking things with me in the event that we don’t return. Had I known that, that day was going to be my last day in the office well…I would’ve taken a lot more home with me than I did.
I have officially been teleworking 100% for two months and this shit is not easy. Technology is great for the fact that I have my files online, easily accessible, but I’m one of those old school people that like to have my hands on the real thing to reference. I don’t like toggling between applications and while I have an additional monitor to ease some of that stress, there are two problems with that. One – my computer chair and desk are not cleaned off for me to sit there anymore and B – I don’t really want to sit there to get the benefit of my second screen because it’s a pain, my laptop doesn’t do second screen correctly and then my mouse disappears and I’m left just moving my finger on the mouse pad freaking out.
I think people who normally work from home on a daily basis aren’t experiencing the same frustration that I am; that’s an environment that they’re used to. But for me? Even though I now only have one coworker left, not being able to physically see her is frustrating. We communicate through text all day, we call each other when it’s more convenient, but at the end of the day we both have the same concern – why is no one following up on our well being?
When your workforce goes from 90% onsite, 10% telework, it’s important that once that shift to 100% telework happens, you check in. Ensuring that your staff is able to handle and manage the change in a way that they can still be productive is necessary, and if not, finding solutions to help your team. But I think I know why this isn’t happening – it deals with mental health.
The stigma around mental health is preventing my leadership from leading. To play devil’s advocate, one could say that maybe my project manager is experiencing some issues with his own mental health. Maybe he’s feeling secluded, worried, in a constant state of despair, and as former military acknowledging that would be acknowledging defeat. However, to only speak when you need something? To rarely ever speak to one employee throughout the entire pandemic? I can’t forgive that, I can’t understand that, and I can’t excuse that. If you’re wondering, I’m the employee that has to receive news from my coworker. When my other coworker was being let go, I had to find out from them. If it weren’t for my coworker, I would be on this ship alone.
Now, I’m doing a lot better than I was a month ago. I’ve come to accept this reality but that doesn’t mean I have to embrace it. I’m thankful that my coworker shares these same concerns and feelings, I’m glad we’re together navigating these waters because I know I’m not alone. What I’m not okay with is the lack of empathy because checking in to see how people are doing broaches on discussing mental health.
The client should not be the one doing weekly check ins with us to see how we are. The client should not be the one telling us on a weekly basis to hang in there, we’re doing great, and she’s thankful for the work we’re doing. Why does the client care more about our mental health than the person we work for?
It’s impossible during this time to escape addressing mental health. It’s at the forefront now and it’s just as important as anyone’s physical health.
So here’s my advice – check in with your people, you know, the one’s who are still expected to perform and produce. Remind them that they are human, too and they’re not just a paycheck. If they tell you they’re struggling, find solutions to make this time as easy for them as possible. This is a hard adjustment period for people who are used to being in an office; we’re feeling disconnected, scared, and overwhelmed. Take into account your workforce, how such an abrupt change can create unforeseen difficulties and check in with them. Be compassionate. If all of this is still too much for you to handle, just call your people to say “hi.”
People don’t leave jobs, they leave bad bosses. During this pandemic, take care of your people.