“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” – Maya Angelou
These words of Maya Angelou ring loud, even more so in the wake of a global pandemic. At the start of COVID, the tech industry faced new challenges, and then some, when it came to adapting to the “new normal” of remote work.
And then, we were hit by a second, more virulent wave. We saw a hybrid work environment with half the workforce working from home, and the rest from the office, as the next “new normal.” With the ever-evolving view of what ‘new normal’ means, one thing is for certain at this point. Such unprecedented times call for unprecedented measures, especially in the work environment.
An entirely new approach to leadership is required; one that grounds its fundamentals in practicing compassion. Every organization needs to act as an agent of change to create a compassionate as well as an inclusive workplace – for where would organizations stand without the support of their people?
COVID has brought corporate compassion into sharp focus
The past year of working remotely has changed a lot of things for companies as well as employees. We have all become more understanding. All of us had to drop off calls midway through for various reasons; we’ve become familiar with our colleagues’ kids and pets too.
Work culture has undergone a dynamic shift with employees being cognizant of their colleagues’ family needs, respecting boundaries, and l caring for each other a lot more than before. Employees have even agreed to take lesser pay if it meant avoiding layoffs for other teams in their organization. As leaders, having open and honest communication about the financial standing of the company goes a long way in gaining the loyalty of your workforce.
Corporate compassion is expected now. Employees are better engaged by empathetic leaders who do not shy away from difficult conversations. According to the 2021 State of Workplace Empathy report by Businesssolver, nearly 72% of respondents believe empathetic organizations lead to more motivated employees, which in turn leads to higher productivity.
Recommended read: How To Build Safe And PROUD Workplace – A Personal Story
Encourage everyone to discuss their individual experiences and perspectives so that you can collectively re-emerge into the next normal. The pandemic’s most important lesson is that businesses can’t go it alone. Preparing for the future requires a concrete plan that focuses on building a compassionate organization.
How to foster a compassionate workplace
A company with a conscience is a formidable thing to reckon with in today’s evolving world. Also, the best talent in the market gravitates towards a company that truly cares about its employees.
Here’s what you can do to cultivate corporate compassion, as well as comfort, and address the concerns of your employees, to build a resilient workforce for the future.
- Design employee-forward strategies that focus on safety and well-being
In the aftermath of COVID, the primary concern of organizations should be that of the safety of their people. While it is crucial to follow government guidelines about reopening workplaces, we have to go beyond that to provide additional well-being benefits to employees.
Offer flexibility of hours and location of work to your employees. If the past year has shown something, it is that we can get things done as well as maintain a high level of productivity, right from our homes. Give them a choice about where they want to work; be it the office or remotely.
The key is to create a hybrid work environment and achieve a balance between physical office space and remote work.
- Check in with employees regularly
With your team working remotely, it is important to not let them feel disconnected. Regular, consistent communication helps make your employees feel seen and appreciated. Check in with them about how they are doing if they are facing any challenges, and how you can help. Publicly recognize compassionate acts taken by others to further encourage a mutually supportive community.
Take care of your people and back them up with practical support like additional sick days, extended leave, and increased health coverage. Alleviating such basic concerns of your employees will help them be more productive.
- Recognize your people’s grief and help them heal
As organizations slowly navigate going back to work, leaders must recognize that employees will need different kinds of support in the aftermath of COVID. It is not as simple as asking people to calm down, move on and expect business to continue as usual.
Instead of issuing blanket policies or thinking that all employees need the same kind of support, address each individual’s grief separately. They could be experiencing anxiety about future losses, feeling out of control, worrying about unstable job situations, or coping with the possible loss of loved ones.
Be sensitive to different experiences, find the right interventions and adjust them specifically for each employee’s situation; ask them how you can offer your support. As a leader, help your employees find meaning in their grief so that they can heal from it and move forward towards a semblance of normalcy.
- Allow for differences in how others cope
Not everybody reacts to a situation in the same way. It is important to hold open discussions where you can learn what your employees need and then create a safe environment for them. As a compassionate leader, you need to validate whatever feelings your employees express as normal, and then go about addressing them.
Mental well-being is just as important as physical well-being. Providing safe workplace forums, putting your employees in touch with mental health experts, and ensuring they get the help they require will go a long way in helping them move past this situation.
- Be transparent with employees to build trust
The pandemic had resulted in several of the tech giants laying off employees. Instead of keeping your employees in the dark, give them clarity about the financial implications of the crisis on the company. They will appreciate honesty and feel involved in the decision-making process. Alternative plans can be made instead of resorting to layoffs and an empowered workforce will only make it easier to achieve favorable outcomes.
Recommended read: Building Future-Ready Tech Teams
Corporate compassion dictates the way forward
Compassionate leaders are better equipped to shepherd their employees into a post-crisis next normal; organizations that realize the paramount importance of acting with integrity and compassion will be more likely to thrive in a post-pandemic world. This is critical to employee wellbeing, productivity, and retention.
The time has come to ask yourselves. Where do you stand?
It is okay if you do not have all the answers but sometimes, all it takes is to listen to your workforce and act on that basis. Being mindful and understanding is key, which is not all that hard to do, eh?
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