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It’s Time for Empathy (and Balance) at the Workplace

Being empathetic is the need of the hour, given the way the Covid-19 pandemic has spread across the world. Countries are still contemplating what their best practices should be and are still in the process of redefining their strategies to deal with the current crisis.

Not to mention, the rising numbers of job losses across industries with even industry biggies like WeWork, Yelp, TripAdvisor joining the layoff movement.

While leading tech CEOs like Mark Benioff of Salesforce was instrumental in trying to initiate the no-layoff pledge in the early stages of the Covid-19 pandemic, over the next few weeks, the growing economic downturn and its impact on the IT, automobile, aviation, travel and other sectors forced companies to choose to furlough several of their staff or opt for mass lay-offs.

Read More: Can Business Leaders and Business Owners Avoid Laying Off Employees?

Among the world’s major companies that chose to downsize their workforce were:

  • Marriott International, the world’s largest hotel company
  • Cirque du Soleil announced it would lay off 95% of its 4679 staff on March 19th,
  • Air Canada announced it would lay off 50% of its staff in March,
  • Billion-dollar apartment-rental start-up Sonder furloughed a third of its workforce in March,
  • Online job hub ZipRecruiter laid of 443 employees and furloughed many more in March,
  • Even retailers like Sephora and Macy’s had to follow suit

The number of companies choosing to layoff or furlough staff for the duration of the pandemic is not only growing, it is now giving the global workforce another reason to worry and feel insecure. Layoffs have hit the technology sector from March this year as well, in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic.

According to an analysis by CompTIA, the technology sector’s job losses for April totaled 111,900 positions.

A few takeaways to keep in mind at this time:

It is crucial for HR leaders, Chief People Officers and Business leaders in all-sized organizations to focus on building teams that are lean.

Several tech companies and growing start-ups over hire and boast of large staff strength just to portray a growing set-up, without necessarily having the need for so many multiple hands.

The rise in automation across sectors is meant to scale back on manual labor and this itself points toward a growing (useful) need to focus on building lean teams where every employee is assigned work in a smarter manner.

A key takeaway from this world crisis due to Covid-19: It is crucial for industry leaders to focus on protecting the people who work for them, as opposed to hiring too many team members who then stand to lose livelihoods when there is a downturn due an unforeseen health crisis like the current Covid-19 pandemic.

One can never be too prepared in business, but it is important to plan for recessions and uncertainties at every stage. While more companies globally look at salary cuts or furloughing their staff, the anxiety among everyday workers is bound to be on the rise. And while remote work is taking center stage and peers everywhere are losing their livelihood, it is only human to start experiencing stress and wonder about your own future.

This is why empathy is the need of the hour for team leaders and business managers alike.

It’s not about how good one is at being empathetic, the current world situation calls for leaders to adopt a changed attitude in order to ensure business continuity and motivation levels while finding ways to ease the anxious mindset among staff.

The Work From Home Experience of today is a forced Scenario

Let’s keep in mind that no company has a rulebook in place when it comes to ‘’dealing with a global pandemic’’, every business and team has had to adjust in real-time.

We are fortunate enough to be faced with this Covid-19 crisis at a time when we have the supporting tools and technologies to enable a better and more seamless remote work experience.

However, given that professionals are working at home, during a forced lockdown (with multiple family members, children of all ages in many cases and even pets!), balancing work the way they did while-at-work and working from home in this situation are two separate concepts that have to be dealt with differently.

*image above not our own

Read More: How to Establish a Work Culture With a Distributed Workforce

While it is crucial for leaders to ensure a balance between getting their team to be productive and helping them get their tasks done, it is also a time to keep room for unforeseen challenges.

  • Key takeaway-> Distribute tasks during this crisis by keeping shadow employees. The day one is faced with a challenge, someone else should be ready to take up the task.

Ensuring business continuity also helps ensure livelihoods! And creating that balance between the two is most important as lockdowns might extend in certain areas, thereby impacting other areas of business in some way.

It’s Time for More Frequent One-to-Ones

The global workforce is worried and stressed, world economies are buckling under pressure. The effects of Covid-19 are being felt far and wide.

While scrum meetings are a usual process in most SaaS or technology companies, a regular scrum doesn’t necessarily allow employees to share their innermost problems or concerns. The present moment is a time of struggle, everyone is faced with an issue, be it lack of groceries, an ill parent at home, or even a young toddler that needs care in the middle of a work from home routine because day care centers are closed.

According to a 2019  Businessolver Workplace Empathy Monitor survey, 80% of employees would be willing to work longer hours for an employer they view as empathetic.

Leaders and business managers can benefit from keeping their team motivated, at this challenging time, they also have to go the extra mile and become the shoulder to cry on, if anyone on the team needs it. Besides the regular scrum, a weekly one-to-one for about 10 minutes where both sides motivate each other with humor and talk about their issues (remember, everyone is going through a challenging time right now) are some starting steps.

Read More: Covid-19: And How It’s Changing The Way Companies Operate

Business Leaders Have to Know When to Take the Right Action

Leaders are not only meant to assure businesses that goals will be met, they have to get their team to help achieve those goals. At the same time, knowing that everyone is going through a challenging time also puts the pressure on Human Resources and business leaders to take the right action at the right time.

  • Being empathetic is one part of the journey while we try to get through this phase together.
  • Knowing what action to take and when to take it, keeping business goals and employee safety in mind is another.

This  is where leaders and HR heads or Chief People Officers have to strike that balance and find the middle ground. And it starts with empathy.


Have something to say about evolving workplace culture needs and the impact of Covid-19? Write to psen@itechseries.com