There’s no question: It’s a tough time to be an employer and it’s a tough time to be an employee.
You’ve probably seen this in your own workplace (wherever that may be), watched it on the news, and heard about it from friends and family. In uncertain times, we might have different questions, but we definitely all want answers.
Whether you call it “The Big Quit”, employee churn, or simply the inevitable reckoning of economic confusion, many employees and employers are on edge, waiting for the next big shift and wondering if it’s time to make a move.
The Employee Challenge
The struggle is real.
The pandemic has forced more workers than ever before to switch to remote operations — and those are the lucky ones whose positions allowed them to work remotely and whose employers managed to stay in business. Still, many don’t feel all that lucky, as the divisions between work and home life melt away. Long hours without a real break lead to employee stress, anxiety, and burnout.
Unfortunately, one of the best ways to really get away is to take a vacation, and any kind of travel has been tricky at best for a while now. Forget international travel — even traveling across town to see friends and family can be fraught with uncertainty as we work to respect each other’s space and needs and to keep everyone healthy and safe. The staycation — once a novelty — is a bit harder to pull off these days. Without a concerted effort, it can easily feel like just more of the same.
The Employer Challenge
The struggle is real.
How can you plan for success when it’s hard to tell what’s coming next? Anybody who’s ever taken algebra courses knows that the more variables you have, the harder it is to solve the equation — and we have plenty of variables to deal with these days. If you’re lucky enough to still be in business, there’s a good chance you’ve had to make plenty of tough decisions. From high-level strategic decisions for the future priorities of your business to simply trying to make the incoming numbers match the outgoing expenditures, there’s more than math involved.
Consider simply the decisions about operations. If your team members are customer facing, how are you keeping them safe? When will the customers return? If your team members aren’t customer facing, how are you keeping them safe? If everyone’s working remotely, for how long? Will there ever been a time we can safely return to the same work location together? If not, how can we possibly afford to pay for it? Plus, what’s the real cost of employee churn and who can possibly afford it?
When Challenges Collide
Employers are employees, too, so it’s not like there’s a clear line here, although there are plenty of collision points.
Hiring has been hugely impacted by the pandemic. Not only is a lot of recruiting taking place online, but many candidates expect their new role to afford them more flexibility and greater benefits than their last role. We’ve all read about how employee productivity has gone up, despite employers’ perpetual fears that remote work would lead to slacking, but how long can that last? Employee burnout leads to churn, which means having to find new people to fill the gaps — and training them, and allowing time for them to get into the groove…
The long-term impacts of the pandemic on employees are only just beginning to be realized, but the short-term is clear: Many employees are making tough decisions when finding their work just doesn’t work for them anymore.
Employers: Listen Up!
It would be naive to think there’s a single thing every employer could do to put a stop to employee churn. Still, don’t lose hope: One of the most important things you can do for your employees is to listen. While they’re part of your world because you work together, what’s going on in the rest of their world? Employee engagement should be an ongoing priority for your organization — not just corporate jargon or a once-a-year study. If you’ve fallen behind, it’s time to catch up.
Whether it’s through anonymous employee pulse checks, team meetings, or one-on-one check-ins, make time to connect to your team members as human beings — not just as automatons that perform actions for you. Are all of their family members safe and healthy? Has someone at home been laid off? Have they had to postpone important plans — attending a wedding or getting married, traveling to visit or care for loved ones? There’s a lot going on these days that isn’t quite how we’d like it to go. Everything that’s happening in your employees’ lives has an impact on them, which is likely to have an impact on their work. It’s a bad idea to pry and be nosy. It’s a good idea to be supportive and caring.
Employees: Speak Up!
Ideally, your employer has read the section above and/or is already a great listener. Ideally, there are plenty of opportunities for you to reach out to share your feedback — surveys, meetings, and always-on feedback channels. Ideally, you have a manager or supervisor who’s got your back, has your best interests at heart, and is always receptive to feedback.
Ideally, however, you also step up to share that feedback. Nobody can read your mind and nobody knows everything that’s going on with you. Of course, this doesn’t mean you need to share every detail of your personal life with your colleagues. However, if something’s wrong, be proactive about sharing your concerns. Whether it’s personal or professional, if it has an impact on your work, consider how best to address this challenge. If you don’t feel that you can talk to your direct supervisor, reach out to your HR team. Connecting with peers can be helpful, but they may not be able to take action to help deal with the situation.
Keep It Together
It’s not always possible to quickly and easily solve the problems that we face, but we really are all in that same proverbial boat here. We all see the uncertainty, though we may see it from different angles. Earn the respect of those around you by showing respect, by being proactive and transparent when possible, and by keeping communication channels open.