Listening, Learning, Unlearning, Teamwork, Collaboration, and Adaptability have been my top priorities since the pandemic began. Those made agility and pivoting much easier whenever it was time to apply them.
As a HR Leader, I prided myself on being there for my team members. It did not matter if the support needed was personal or professional, I was there to listen, advice, and help.
As the impact of the pandemic began to sink in, my conversations with individual team members revealed that I would need to dig deep to provide support. I too was trying to cope, but my roles meant that I needed to find ways to balance self-care and supporting my team.
In my role of Disease Prevention Coordinator (DPC), I attended weekly meetings to receive updates, provide information on what was happening in Jamaica, and share valuable tips with the team about staying safe during the pandemic.
In my HR role, I supported employees in eight countries by listening actively to understand their needs, offering advice and tools when needed, making suggestions in terms of solutions, and being a listening ear when fellow leaders and employee needed to vent.
I learned during the pandemic, that simply listening to someone's frustration and showing empathy can help them cope. However, they will only let you in if they know that whatever they share stays with you.
I also embraced the concepts that "it is ok, not to always be ok", and "it is important to address what is causing us not to be ok". Instead of wishing the situation will change (although we know it won't), we should try to accept it for what it is and focus on mitigating the impact especially on our mental health.
Realizing that individually we were facing an unprecedented challenges, my employer chose a wholistic approach to mitigating the impact of the pandemic on the workforce.
They provided resources and information to educate and help us with mitigating the impact of the pandemic, and a myriad of initiatives to assist employees with coping.
We had a choice of Mindfulness Sessions, Yoga and Exercise Classes, Nutrition, and Seminars on Homeschooling young Children, Practicing good Health Habits while Working from Home, Supporting Older Children with Online Classes, and many others.
One of my favorite company initiatives from the standpoint of Infection Prevention, was the concept of "Zero Contact".
Zero contact proposed that family members who had to go out to work, shop, or conduct business, should maintained at least six feet from everyone they come in contact with, while following the other protocols of masking wearing, handwashing, and sanitizing. This concept ensured that when they return home, they can safely interact with their families.
I am happy to report that when I left in March 2021, not a single employee or members of their immediate families had contracted the virus.
Another priority was equipping our employees to be productive from home. This became necessary when Jamaica implemented its first lockdown.
Employees were given permission to take home their assigned office chair, monitor, keyboard, headset, mouse, and any other item that was necessary for their productivity. We all had laptop computers which we brought home daily, so that worked out well.
As I reflected on how my role and priorities evolved during the pandemic, and how my employer responded, there a sense of gratitude. We did not wait until the pandemic arrived in the different countries to begin preparation. We did not consider the usual things that worked as still applicable in every situation, kept abreast of what was happening, and forecasted what would come next, so when it happened, we were prepared.
COVID-19 has changed the future of work, so if your priorities have not changed since the pandemic began, you have a lot of catching up to do. It's not too late, you can begin now!