We are all experiencing a significant adjustment in our lives and jobs that we probably never thought we would face. It is one thing to have a work from home policy that allows teams to have the flexibility, and it is entirely another to force employees to their homes and not let them within 6 feet+ of each other if at all. Once it is not a choice, the dynamics change dramatically in our brains. We feel trapped, isolated, and honestly lonely, even if we are around members of our families.
On a simple biological level, we have chemicals in our brain that try to get us to act or repeat actions.
When this happens, the chemicals reinforce that behavior to get us to do it more frequently for the good of the individual or group. We want to work together, and for most people, when asked about engagement or connectivity to their company, it comes back to relationships that they have with team members and their manager.
These chemicals that are released based on these actions are responsible for those feeling that we simply call happiness or that feeling of belonging and safety. Our relationships at work are essential for successful culture and business; that is why you will very often see a question like this on an employee engagement survey. Do you have a best friend at work? Many think this question is out of place or does not make much sense. As you can see now, that question is testing to see if we are happy and building solid, lasting relationships at work, and our culture is healthy.
So right now, these relationships are being tremendously impacted with our co-workers first and foremost. That is just the beginning, though, as we also connect with the person, we buy a coffee from, the restaurant we frequent at lunch, and the meetings with clients/vendors that are ongoing each week. Each of these interactions builds a connection that our mind interprets and values. What does this mean to us at this time? That we have to consider what is best for our teams to navigate this difficult time. There is another underlying chemical that needs to be considered and it shows up more often than we would like when we are under stress.
During the stress of the current environment, our brains release another chemical, Cortisol. Cortisol is the chemical in our brains that is the first level in the “fight or flight” reaction we have to keep us alive. This chemical normally enters our system when we hear a bump in the night, and we immediately go from asleep to awake with a high heart rate and alertness that seems almost hard to believe. Cortisol is doing its job, making us
hypersensitive and protecting us from any danger that could be there. The challenge is that it should only be in our systems for short bursts. When we are under stress and unsure of the future like today, Cortisol is active at lower levels and impacts our behaviors ongoing. So how do we best address this today?
First, the novelty of the forced work from home social distancing will wear off after about a week, and we are there. Then the employees will start to miss the interaction and the routine of their “normal” workday. Home is not the best place for everyone to work, especially when the schools are closed, and everyone is home together trying to figure this out. Once this happens, it is crucial to create that normalcy in any way possible that you can find. Our teams need to connect and start to feel regular activities again. We crave safety and security, and right now, we find it from talking to our relationships and contacts whomever they may be. We are running our regular team/group education meetings (100% in CDC compliance) online with full video so we can see each other and
connect for the business, make small talk and simply have some normal daily interaction. Each business owner is responsible for their team’s well-being and needs to consider the challenges of what each employee is facing right now as they try to figure out what will be best for themselves and their families. This is also a great time to work
on skills or learning as the time at home opens windows for this education to take place.
If we can support your team in any way to fulfill this need, we are here to help them overcome the challenges of being at home, separated from their teammates and routines. Seeing that friendly face online and that little bit of normalcy will go a long way right now to help everyone have a brighter future. Please stay safe and know that we are all in this together and will get through this by working together.