Working from home, or living at work?

During the first lockdown, most leaders were pleasantly surprised with their employees' ability to adapt and remain engaged, a year on, and still facing severe restrictions, people are feeling overwhelmed, disconnected, and exhausted. What is most worrying, is that no one seems to be saying no to this unsustainable way of working. How do we have these challenging conversations?

As we continue on in the middle of the second wave of the pandemic, I have noticed a marked difference in how leaders and teams are responding to this next phase of uncertainty and disruption. During the first lockdown most leaders were pleasantly surprised at the enthusiasm, dedication and willingness of their employees to work late into the night and give everything they had to keep the business running and profitable. Home offices were speedily set up and employees learnt the subtle art of homeschooling while simultaneously being on video conferencing calls and keeping up with their demanding work schedules. This went on for a large part of the last year and everyone gave it their all, thinking that normality would return in the near future. 

Then, comes 2021, more lockdowns, new variants, another round of schools closing and yet more demands on people’s time and energy after a brief, and not so festive holiday session for a lot of us. Still, business must go on, and everyone threw themselves back into spending all day in online meetings and working late into the night to catch up on the day to day tasks that they just never have time to complete anymore. Just this week, an exec coaching client reported having his last MS Teams call at 11pm, receiving a meeting invite at 2am, which expected him to join a 7am meeting the next morning. This is the “new normal” now, which 18 months ago would have seemed like absolute lunacy to us. We can’t go on like this, people’s resilience has been all used up, tempers are fraying and the trust teams have spent years building up is slowly being eroded away by too many transactional meetings, and not enough space for development of trust and connection on a human level. 

Within all of this, what worries me most, is that no one seems to be saying no to this unsustainable way of working. There seems to be a real stigma around speaking up, that it might be taken as a sign of personal weakness or disloyalty to the company. So many rush decisions that were taken at the start of the pandemic around home working haven’t yet been revisited and questioned, leaving employees feeling powerless and abandoned as they soldier on working 80-90 hour weeks from home while juggling lockdown life. 

These are serious issues which are very hard to voice and to address within a team or organisation, and most teams just don’t have the capacity to engage in such high stakes, and possibly emotional conversations. 

At RISE we have been supporting teams and organisations in facing challenges like this for many years now, way before Covid hit. It takes a certain kind of facilitation and support to create a safe space to slowly unearth these perspectives and experiences, especially now the majority of meetings are happening in the virtual space where most people struggle to speak up and find their voice. We specialise in running these kinds of events for small teams or across the whole organisation and help businesses have the crucial conversations that need to happen now, addressing the bubbling issues before they boil over. What then arises out of these conversations can lead to new innovations, ways of working together and a great level of engagement and buy in moving forward. Teams get to recreate themselves and find new strategies for collaborating and navigating the uncertainty together in more sustainable and rewarding ways. It always ends in a win-win situation and the time and investment always pays off. 

If you would like to find out more about how we could help you and your organisation then one of our consultants would be happy to speak with you.