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Dear manager, where is your empathy?

Your company has successfully implemented all the best tools, applications and structures to create a productive remote workforce, all within just six weeks. You can pat yourself on the back. But have you given the same level of thought to building a healthy psycho-social work environment? Do empathy, trust and care form the secure net around your well thought out plan? These not-so-normal work-from-home conditions require your attention to ensure the well-being of high performing remote teams. Empathy is vital.

Since the outbreak of Covid-19, there has been an explosion of excellent materials on how to effectively manage and set up a productive remote and work-from-home workforce. You can search for multiple sources on the best online applications to use for communication, collaboration, task management and more. Online and cloud-based software applications are booming as millions of people turn to these products to keep economically active and in touch.

The positive and the not-so-great

Remote working, forced upon many for the sake of the nation's well-being, is having both positive and negative ramifications for employers and employees alike. Positively, the debate around whether employees can work from home or not is now settled – they can. Where given a choice to work in an office or from home, research from Stanford University indicates that remote workers' productivity levels soar and quit levels drop. It's not all bad.

But this is not work-from-home as we know it, this is the new not-so-great-normal of going into daily battle with a cruel world of work, parenting, schooling, housekeeping, cooking and shopping coupled with health and economic anxiety. It's a social experiment extraordinaire. As a manager, you need to display empathy for what employees are experiencing.

The unrealistic manager

Let me address the unrealistic manager, the manager that expects employees to be working a regular ‘day in the office’. Planning a 7.30am video meeting with a mother of a baby or toddler is unfair. Expecting parents of younger children to be at your beck and call is bordering on psychopathic behaviour. Toddlers and younger children need focused attention to fill their buckets, after which they are quite happy to amuse themselves or take a nap. Rather work with your team to figure out the most productive work rhythms for all involved.

The micro-manager

Then there's the micro-manager. The manager who doesn't trust that the employees are working so becomes obsessive in managing the micro details. Micro-managers are not good at any time, but in a remote environment, it fuels a culture of suspicion and distrust. Demonstrate authentic trust with your teams by empowering them.

The ‘I’m in control’ manager

And not forgetting the 'I am in control' manager. This manager is likely to be feeling out of control and so asserts dominance by implementing counter-productive measures. "Measure productivity, not presence" is the RecruitMyMom mantra. Productivity includes creative thinking and collaboration with others. Don't be pedantic about the minutiae of what constitutes productivity. Instead, spend your energy on developing clear job descriptions with measurable outcomes and KPIs.

Empathy is not at odds with responsibility and accountability

Everyone is in uncharted waters at this time. Empathy, trust and care will go a long way to ensure that you have a more psychologically and socially well-balanced workforce. A workforce that will go to the ends of the earth for you because you demonstrate that you dare to put yourself in their shoes and care. Empathy is not at odds with responsibility and accountability; rather, it supports and undergirds your employees' ability to perform well under extreme circumstances.

RecruitMyMom has been placing women in office and remote working jobs since 2012. What we are experiencing under Covid-19 is not normal work-from-home conditions, which requires extraordinary empathy and understanding from managers and employees alike.

About the author

Phillipa Geard is the founder and CEO of RecruitMyMom.co.za

RecruitMyMom's press office

RecruitMyMomWe're a trusted, online recruitment agency based in South Africa. Our easy-to-use, personalised service is aimed at progressive employers wanting to employ skilled women who are looking for flexible employment.
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