Working from home at the best of times can be challenging. The lack of equipment, feeling disconnected from colleagues and the back and shoulder pain can make it feel like torture. During the lock down, I found all of these issues frustrating but this far in, I’m finally enjoying the flexibility and freedom it brings especially after a lunchtime meditation or Pilates session from the comfort of my own home. To have a job at all at the moment is a blessing and makes me even more committed to making the best of it for myself and my team.
It’s not the same for everyone though and there are very good reasons why. In a nutshell, it’s a huge change during a period of instability with competing demands on our attention. These three challenges are a recipe for destructive conflict at any time but even more so now.
You may have noticed that colleagues have become less tolerant or more aggressive over email or during video conferences. They may not even be able to give you their full attention because they have children screaming or neighbours arguing in the background. You may have found that you have less patience for your colleagues’ lack of productivity. Why are you doing so much work when others aren’t? Before lock down, these things wouldn’t have affected you so much but now, these issues seem to be under a microscope and it can sometimes feel overwhelming.
This blog post is about dealing with those challenges as they arise and improving how you respond to conflict in these difficult circumstances. That’s not just about you, it’s also about other people and the relationships you have with them. It’s beneficial to your own peace of mind, your productivity and team harmony which are crucial if you are a manager or a business owner.
It’s a Huge Change
Some people can adapt to change better than others. Over the past few weeks, many of us have had to get to grips with online filing systems, video conferencing facilities not to mention a new style of working. Conflict can flare up quickly in these circumstances, especially when our attention is split between our home commitments and work in such a direct manner. The question you should be asking your team member or raising with your manager is what you need by way of support. It could be IT assistance and guidance about a particular application or perhaps all you need is time and understanding as this might be negatively affecting self-confidence and self-esteem. If you are a manager or not, you should be openly communicating about what you are struggling with and working together to find solutions that work for you both.
It’s a Period of Instability
We’re all coming to terms with the pandemic. Some people may have lost their jobs or have sick relatives so it’s not surprising that we feel more anxious about the future. That often translates into anger, frustration or sadness and can easily degenerate into conflict with others. Empathy is key here as this may explain why somebody may be reacting in this or falling behind. Put yourself in their shoes and ease off on the targets. If you or a colleague is overwhelmed with emotion, taking time out to take a stroll, have a nap or do something that supports you spiritually will ease tensions. Now is the time to recognise that we are not just employees, we are also human beings with fears and needs .
Competing Demands On Our Attention
Those working from home with children will know all about this one! It’s also a demanding time for people living on their own who are finding it especially hard during the lock down. The competing attention here may be with yourself. It might be incredibly hard to deal with repressed fears or experiences that have been arising in recent weeks, without recourse to usual support mechanisms. You may be finding it challenging to get along with those you live with. If you are dealing with a colleague going through any of this, then re-schedule meetings for a time when the other person is able to be more focused. Put off negative performance feedback and instead offer an attentive ear. If you see that behaviour is out of the ordinary, the first port of call in difficult times is to show compassion, understanding and words that will bolster self-esteem. That’s not about being a good manager or colleague, that’s just what we all should be doing on a human level.
Bad behaviour is not appropriate in the work place but during the lock down, there may be good reasons for it, especially if it’s out of character. We are all doing our best to deal with things with the skills that we have. Often the best way to deal with conflict is to give yourself and the other person a break. That’s where empathy and distance come in handy.
Do you agree? What have been your conflict challenges whilst working from home during the lock down?