Covid has prompted our most human side to shine. People have supported their communities through volunteer work, and companies have shown empathy and compassion. Will this shift the needle towards a more people-oriented workplace?

This last year, the distinction between our personal and professional lives has become blurry. We have seen inside each other’s homes, families and pets and shared fragile moments (one in six; 17 per cent; have cried with a coworker).  

The pandemic has also raised awareness about important issues, such as mental health and the importance of a work-life balance. But, unfortunately, the fact that those issues are still prevalent suggests that many companies are still prioritising numbers over people and have some work to do. 

Understandably, every manager, CEO, board member, and entrepreneur is looking for excellent results, but we should never achieve those at the expense of people’s wellbeing. 

To be an authentic leader and build successful teams and, therefore, companies, we have to stop these short-sighted but, unfortunately, standard practices. And start to create a people-oriented workplace. 

SHIFTING TOWARDS PEOPLE-ORIENTED LEADERSHIP

Understanding that people are our most important asset is the first step towards a people-oriented leadership style.

“Always treat your employees exactly as you want them to treat your best customers.” – Stephen R. Covey.

The leader’s job is to take care of his/her people; in turn, they will take care of your customers. By concentrating on our people’s well being, we invest in creating safe environments where people can thrive. 

Three main areas to discuss:

Emotional Management

As a rule of thumb, people leave their emotions at home and put on their ‘work masks’. But it’s time that leaders unlock the door and let people’s emotions come into the workplace. 

We cannot be content with the “I’m fine” response. Emotions are human, and sometimes people feel tired, overwhelmed, stressed, insecure, etc…

Unfortunately, many people fear the repercussions of showing their vulnerability. Admitting insecurity about your job can lead to feeling exposed and running the risk of potential redundancy. Asking to work remotely because you need to take care of your family can make you look uncommitted. 

Some people are afraid that “Everything they say and do can be used against them.” 

The good thing is that we can change all of it by allowing people to bring their authentic selves to work. When we don’t need to put on an act every time we walk through the office door, we reduce our emotional labour. 

Work-life balance

For many years now, we have created the “culture of overwork” by glorifying and rewarding over time. So much so that we have come to believe that in order to succeed, we need to live for our jobs. 

But let’s be honest, as Paul Tsongas said, “No one on his deathbed ever said – I wish I had spent more time at the office.”

The first step is understanding the reasons behind the overtime: is it because there is work overload? Can we do something to be more efficient? Is it people doing something they shouldn’t? Sometimes people can take advantage of overtime too. Once you know the root cause, it’s easier to avoid it in the future. 

As company leaders, we need to set an example and ensure we act consistently with what we say. What we do is as important as what we say, and by rewarding people who do overtime, we send a clear message, independently of what we say. 

Mental health

There has been a rise in awareness about mental health, and if we are honest about it, it was about time! Mental health is not only about asking people how they feel; it’s about saving lives and genuinely caring for their wellbeing and welfare. 

I read a story a couple of weeks ago about a father who lost his son due to mental health problems. His son was suffering from mental health issues and ultimately decided to end his life. He showed no ‘signs’ of making such a fatal decision, but the outcome is so tragic for all involved that it leaves you wondering how we can help prevent these tragedies moving forward.

We can’t know if anyone will do something or feel that way, but it makes you conscious of how important mental health is. Having systems in place for our employees can save someone else’s life. 

Even by understanding how to identify those issues, increasing communication or creating safe environments at work can make a huge difference.

THE OPTIMIST VIEW

As Optimists, we love to see how companies and business leaders shift towards a more people-oriented approach. 

At the end of the day, we spend almost half our lives working, and sometimes we spend more time with our colleagues than with our families. So this time, we mustn’t dampen the emotion out of us or our working environment, but instead, champion it and make sure we encourage people to be more human in their life. 

When we are safe, motivated, engaged, and happy with our jobs and the people we work with, we tend to be more productive and feel in a safe space where creativity and innovation can flourish.