It seems daily that our sense of control continues to wane. There is no doubt that COVID-19 is having a lasting effect on just about everything – how we work, communicate, travel, purchase, relax, eat and live. We don't have a choice but to deal with the new abnormal, and we are not sure when or if the old normal will return.
Everyone has had to change work schedules and processes, and change is stressful. Nearly 70% of American workers report that COVID-19 is the most stressful time in their professional careers, writes Professor Eric Anicich of the University of Southern California Marshall School of Business. The source of COVID-19 stress is a loss of autonomy or the ability to control actions and be yourself, claims Anicich. Loss of autonomy adversely affects team members' performance and well-being.
Team members are worried about the threat COVID-19 poses to their health, family, job, freedom of movement and more. Anicich researched employees from 41 different community colleges during the initial lockdown in March to determine how they felt about their control over their lives and whether they could be themselves. After an initial feeling of loss of control, the research found that employees recovered quickly and adapted to the new normal.
How to Regain Control
Anicich recommends that if you are working from home clearly define workspace from home space. If you don't have a home office, select a space with a door where you can work privately, and let family members know that you are at work when the door is closed. Take advantage of the benefits of working from home. Use the time that you would have otherwise spent commuting to be more productive, to get more sleep, exercise, connect with friends, increase quality time with family or anything else that makes you feel good. Take care of yourself. Eat healthier. Exercise. Spend some time just on you. Consider earmarking funds that you typically would have spent on going out, traveling or commuting on you and your family's well-being.
Helping Team Members Cope
Regularly check in with team members. Understand that typical schedules are anything but typical, especially among team members whose children are attending school from home. When possible, add flexibility to team members' schedules by not focusing on when or how much the team works, but rather emphasize what they accomplish. Also, set expectations for the team and standards for those who are working from home. You can boost team member morale by frequently recognizing and rewarding team members who are aligned with your corporate culture and values.
Anicich’s research found that neurotic employees recovered their autonomy fastest during the pandemic. They could prove to be the most reliable and effective team members.
Another lasting effect of COVID-19 will be the future of work. Many companies are questioning if team members have to be present from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., five days a week. Work from home will be a component of the future of work. The adoption of technology will continue to accelerate due to enhance efficiencies and ease of operation. Anicich believes now is the time to take as step back and ask the question, “What would an ideal world of work look like for this organization and what step can we take now to create this future?”