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Humane leadership can help tackle employee loneliness during COVID-19

Loneliness and isolation of employees has become a common concern across the globe as the outbreak of Covid-19 compelled organizations to switch from a physical business world to a virtual one. While the underlying reason influencing the shift to virtual interactions was to ensure the health and safety of employees by mitigating the risk of spread of the virus, it has poised consequential damage to the mental wellbeing of several employees and caused a sense of burnout, impeding productivity and output.

Organisational leaders have the power to identify and influence how employees feel

A leader who has high regard for employees’ emotional stability over mere achievement of organisational goals may most accurately predict the underlying causes for such psychological effects. While the lack of motivation to work may depend on common work-related aspects such as extreme workload, conflicts among colleagues, or lack of recognition, these may not necessarily be the only reasons for employees to lose interest in the tasks they perform. A commonly cited reason for adverse impacts on mental well-being post COVID-19 has been attributed to employees missing out on corridor conversations with colleagues, working in sub-optimal home conditions, or even a lack of motivation not knowing the people who they are working with or having a chance to familiarize with each other. Based on research findings, 50% of managers are struggling with employee wellbeing and mental health, likely caused by a combination of remote working challenges as well as external anxieties caused by Covid-19.

The changed behavior of a leader can have a positive-effects on employees

While increasing face-to-face interactions may not create strong interpersonal bonds among colleagues and dispel loneliness altogether, leaders have the power to make a difference. Old leadership styles based on command and control may not be a sage approach to tackle an employee whose productivity has waned due to solitude. The concept of ‘Humane Leadership’ is not a mere buzzword but an effective method of changing a person’s mindset by creating a sense of belongingness within or out of the work place. Hence, understanding your people, the purpose of the organization, and collaborating with the workforce to create a better remote working environment during these tense times could go a long way in terms of improving the mental health, and the overall output of employees.

Create a happier, healthier, and more purposeful workplace through a new model of leadership

For leadership to become a key competitive advantage, following the Four Cs in Humane leadership (Clarity, Candour, Calmness, and Compassion) will assist the managers to be mindful of the psychological health of the employees. The concept of constituting a ripple effect is all about taking an interest in employee wellbeing through subtle acts that will make their spirits soar. With the rise of COVID, casual meet-ups have come to an abrupt end, forcing people to adapt to a virtual working culture. In a time like this where employees are deprived of having friendly tête-à-têtes, taking them out for casual coffee catch-ups and non-work-related trips occasionally can undoubtedly boost team unity and spirit. Sending appreciative notes and celebratory gifts to employees to applaud their hard work may help revive their motivation despite the absence of physical interactions. Simultaneously, the mutual trust between the supervisor and the subordinate is a requisite in the absence of face-to-face interactions. Trusting and understanding employees instead of making them feel that they are trying to evade work when they report on a personal commitment or are unable to work on a particular day will have a positive impact on their emotional wellbeing. For those that are finding it difficult to work from home due to suboptimal work environments or conditions, managers must explore the possibility of a hybrid model where a combination of physical and virtual working environments prevail to benefit employees.

Initiating pandemic conversions to rebuild the bond among employees that COVID-19 has shaken may not be easy. Nevertheless, the prevailing circumstances have proliferated the necessity to lead by empathy and mutual trust.

The Great Attrition that is taking place, with many employees resigning from their workplace is an obvious call or attention to lead with humanity.

Firms across the globe are witnessing a huge wave of employees resigning from the workplace. Many business leaders are making moves to retain these employees; however, they are not seeming to be effective. Companies need to make a more concerted effort to understand why employees are leaving – as a dominant share of the reasons seem to be more non-financial. Understanding the true reason behind attrition can help shift managers moves to attract employees on the right grounds to stay and also earn an edge in the race to attract, develop, and retain the talent they need to create a thriving post-pandemic organization.

Hence, leaders and managers must realize that transitioning back to “normal” in a virtual work environment can only be attained through conversational and humane leadership rather than the coercive and dominant approach that most leaders were accustomed to pre-pandemic. Reimagining how one leads, by having more heart-to-heart conversations with employees will help them truly understand what their workforce is looking for. It requires leaders to develop a much deeper empathy for what employees are going through and reflect their concerns and conversations in actions of response, indicating a willingness from the organization’s end to change to please and satisfy employees, giving them a sense of unity and purpose that they crave.