Employers and employees alike will experience the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic long after lockdown regulations have been relaxed. As businesses return to the new normal, Dr Natasha Winkler-Titus, president of Society for Industrial and Organisational Psychology in South Africa (SIOPSA), urges business owners and managers to lead with compassion.
“We have to realise that none of what we are experiencing is ‘normal’ or that any of us had a choice. Therefore, we would urge leaders to have compassion. Remember that not all employees have similar experiences, as we all have different circumstances. Therefore, if team leaders and managers know their people and their personal circumstances, they can facilitate an accommodative working environment to support each individual toward optimal performance,” she says.
Natasha says employees need to know what is required of them and what outputs are important.
“Old performance management processes should be revisited to ensure we focus on output as opposed to activity. Regularly check in with your team, and not just about work related matters – see how they are doing,” she says.
Natasha advises employers to increase their focus on health and wellness mechanisms, and consider digital wellness as the latter is something most employers did not have to account for in the past. “I’ve seen employers doing more of this now. Some practices include offering online speaking events, addressing the relevant topics such as managing in times of crisis, managing remote teams, health and wellness topics, balance and managing boundaries,” she explains.
She also urges businesses to enhance their communication on the availability of counselling through employee assistance programmes (EAP) for those impacted by Covid-19, and to promote counselling platforms such as The South African Anxiety and Depression Group, if they don’t have employee wellness practitioners or policies in place.
Providing Skills To Cope With Uncertainty
SIOPSA is a non-profit professional society that advances the interest of the profession in South Africa. While industrial and organisational psychologists do not provide clinical psychological services and therapy, they deal with psychological issues and pathology as it relates to work and the workplace. “We provide skills to cope with uncertainty and adjust to change.”
There are less than 3 000 industrial and organisational psychologists registered with the Health professions Council of South Africa. Only 30% are people of colour. While a large percentage comprise women, challenges still exist in the profession.
“Our challenges are not entirely different to those experienced by most professional women in the context of work. These challenges include the multiple roles, including managing boundaries and continued feelings of guilt even with a support network and/or supportive spouse. The proverbial glass ceiling, stereotypes and unconscious bias remains.”