Note from the author: This post is directed at those who coach or mentor their colleagues.
Here it is, September already, and the ripple effects of COVID-19 are continuing to spread. On the east coast, our first day of school was last Tuesday, and same as every year, social media feeds flooded with “first day of school” photos. Unlike previous years, however, these photos tended to feature students learning in a virtual setting, as many school districts have started the new school year with remote learning.
As the coronavirus continues to wreak havoc on our schedules, another round of virtual learning is having a huge impact on parents who need to supervise their children’s school hours while also meeting work commitments and maintaining productivity. The challenge for coaches and mentors is how to support them. While stress levels may have improved a bit over the past few months as employees have become accustomed to remote work practices, many organizations have concerns that productivity is still down. Employees need support just as much as in the spring.
In my May post discussing what our coachees and mentees need during the COVID-19 shutdown, I encouraged you to communicate early and often. To make sure they knew you were there to represent the organization and provide support – even if it’s just to listen. This advice is just as true today as it was then. Many coaches and mentors are finding that it takes a lot of time to schedule virtual meetings, touch base with team members, and find ways to support the workforce as we move into a new school year.
Don’t let this dissuade you. Now is the time to contact the people you coach and find out how they are adapting to the school year and virtual learning. Make sure they are aware of any new programs or policies offered by your firm to help support them as they juggle home, school, and work obligations. For example, here at CLA, we are offering free refurbished laptops to employees who need one for a child to access remote learning. We are promoting options around a flexible work schedule, reduced work hours for several months, or a leave of absence for employees who need to focus full-time on their home and family for the time being. Find out what your organization is offering and share this information with everyone you coach.
The emotional health of the workforce is still an important issue that should be addressed and not ignored. Remember to distribute information on any type of help that your organization can offer, such as an Employee Assistance Program or a Wellness Program. Provide links to these services on your company webpage as well as the phone number to all team members, no matter if they declined to use the programs previously.
We hear the terms “new normal” and “next normal” used a lot lately, and no one knows how soon, if ever, our country and economy will move back to something resembling what we thought of as “normal.” Please stay in touch regularly with the people you coach, and if you’re struggling to find ways to connect, read my previous post for ideas on how to stay in touch.