Experts discuss battling lockdown fatigue to keep relationships, staff and the business secure


A Henley Business School webinar detailed how HR professionals can reinvigorate themselves and their teams.

A webinar titled ‘HR fighting lockdown fatigue’ Jon Foster-Pedley, the dean of Henley Business School shared some perspective on uplifting and refocusing your people as they continue to work in a high-risk national environment. He was joined by Paula Quinsee, author and relationship expert, and Mehnaaz Bux, a partner and employment law specialist at Webber Wentzel.

Jon said that in order to cope with stress and fatigue, HR leaders need to make reality their friend, reskill and upskill and also understand safety.

“HR leaders need to learn to be detached and have emotional control. A lot of fears come up but you have to challenge your fears and see what is in front of you even though it frightens you. You need to be able to see and understand how different things influence each other.”

He suggested that HR leaders practise being good visualisers and disregard the voices in their heads that say they are not being professional or good enough.

He added that leaders need to speak in ways people understand. “Leaders have to speak from a stance of quality and not from being special and different from anybody else. They need to look people in the eye and have mutual respect, and understand where other people are coming from.”

Relationship fatigue
Paula shared insights around relationship fatigue. She shared some of the organisation and employee factors contributing to relationship fatigue in the workplace:
1. Exhaustion: “This is when you are completely over-extended, we see this because of the back-to-back online meetings, our personal and work hours have been blurred because there is no definitive start or finish.”

2. Cynicism: “This is a toxic working environment and interactions, this does not necessarily mean it’s your corporate culture but can be from a team perspective, a particular team member or leaders and unrealistic expectations from your managers."

3. Not feeling valued or appreciated: “This is from an individual perspective, feeling that their contribution is not being valued, their quality of work is not being valued, and going the extra mile at work goes unnoticed.”

4. Micromanaging: “A lot of managers were not equipped to manage remote workers and have resorted to managing traits and behaviours and this has resulted in conflict and confrontation.”

5. Lack of support: “This is a lack of resources due to working from home. There is difficulty with access to information, systems, data and policies, but also to people, who don’t come back to you quickly enough or are not replying to your emails and phone calls. This tends to delay your work progress.”

She explained that there are ways to sustain productivity and relationships. “What is important now is psychological safety, trust and communication in work relationships. Communication equals connections and connection equals relational safety.”

She added that employers need to keep people in the bigger picture all the time because that makes them feel connected, valued, included and appreciated.

“You need to help people understand how their role is contributing to the bigger picture and how their productivity is being measured.”
Paula explains further that clarity, transparency, honesty and vulnerability from organisations will also contribute in making relationships stronger.

“Employees are going to evaluate how serious organisations are about their mental health and wellness and what structures they have put in place to help them, how these structures are communicated and how they are made to feel when accessing the resources.”

Covid-19 misconduct in the workplace
Mehnaaz shared that as we are now in the second year of the pandemic, people are tired of wearing masks and social distancing. “People are craving for human touch, and losing this human interaction has an effect on the way people perform in their jobs.”

She said an employer is obligated to promote and maintain a safe and healthy workplace.

“The Labour Court said it's well and good that employers have fancy Covid-19 regulations on paper but what is important is implementing and complying to the rules.”

She shared three cases that have come before the tribunal.
1. Employee dismissed for reporting to work with Covid-19: “The employer charged the employee with misconduct on two charges; gross misconduct and gross negligence and after disciplinary hearing the employee was dismissed.”

2. Employee dismissed for reporting to work while in Covid-19 quarantine: “The employee was charged with gross misconduct, he challenged the dismissal, and it was later found that he had previously self-isolated. His offence was serious and damaged trust relationship and the dismissal was upheld.

3. Employee dismissed for failing to wear a mask: “The employee claimed the person on the phone would not be able to hear him, so he challenged the dismissal, and the commissioner found that there was confusion in the workplace regarding wearing masks, and the employee was reinstated.”

Mehnaaz said employers need to ensure that they have Covid-19 protocols in place and take it one step further to ensure that they have mechanisms in place to make sure employees comply.

“Courts are now looking at both the employer and employee conduct, “You can’t be one of the employers who have a policy but are not proactive in ensuring compliance.”

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