A few months ago, I was asked to write an article. At the time it was the height of COVID19 and the whole world was struggling with the fact that we had to adapt to working from home, not going to for meals en famille, getting used to not seeing people face to face and for many being a young person living in a shared house away from your family for months on end. I was going to write about something safe, such as communicating during a pandemic etc, but thought “No. Let’s not be safe.”
Those of you who know me well, will recognise my buns, cakes and balloons phrase. In a nutshell it’s about the minutiae of what we have to deal with, while sometimes glaringly ignoring the elephant in the room.
These are difficult times, with so many restrictions on how we do and go about doing our work. Business owners are struggling to keep afloat, some just about keeping their heads above water and treading furiously. Many didn’t make it. People have lost jobs and hope, and some had to completely re-invent themselves. Buzz words such as pivot, digital transformation, rethinking the strategic thrust are being bandied about willy nilly.
What strikes me most is our attitudes towards the people that either work for us or that we work for. For example, in one of the many zoom meetings, discussions, sharing etc, we found ourselves opening up a little. Not too much; just enough to let others take a sneak peek into our lives or problems and our dilemmas, moral or otherwise.
This leads me to my own journey. About two years ago, I decided to upskill, and committed to going back to university and studying. I chose to focus on business coaching and conducting assessments for organisations. This meant coaching business owners as I was working with them to develop and structure their strategic communications. In the pre-COVID world the conversations were about the many deficiencies that lead to our graduates being ill equipped to quite literally jump in feet first into a job – any job, never mind one in communications. As always on the back of that was the eye-rolls and sighs about the strength and determination of the young people of today. How fragile, weak they are and how they lacked the level of commitment that we the older guard had. We were made of sterner stuff, we didn’t buckle at the slightest problem. Oh no, how dare we show weakness!
At around the 50th zoom discussion I attended, the panel asked the attendees to list one or two things that really concerned them this whole business of working from home. Lack of boundaries came up top on the list; which meant that people found themselves working all the time because, where were they going anyway? So you might as well work. It was at this point I thought that we may have completely lost our ability to be human, respectful, kind and even understanding. There were many business owners out there who are saying I don’t care, they have to work because I am the business owner and I have to make sure I don’t go under. Then, thankfully there’s a whole lot of us who, like me, thought, Really? Shouldn’t we be looking to support, encourage and look after the mental health of those who work for us, with us?
As we move into a new norm, where once again we are having to adjust and find a comfortable angle in which to sit in, I ask that we spare a thought for the people for whom we work with. Think about the issues that this situation we find ourselves in has created, a situation that isn’t going to go away immediately just because we have a vaccine. This won’t be our last pandemic either. I urge you to think about and be aware of the mental health issues that your staff or the people you work with may have.
So the next time, you ask someone How are you? Please let them tell you. Listen to what they say. Show you care. They will thank you for it.
All views expressed in this article are my own and do not represent the opinions of any entity whatsoever with which I have been, am now, or will be affiliated.
Anita Chandran is the Principal Consultant of Shankar Chandran Advisory (formerly known as Anita Chandran & Associates). She is also the Honorary Secretary of the Public Relations and Communications Association of Malaysia (PRCA Malaysia).