Times are tough for everyone right now. However, few people will come right out and tell you that they’re struggling. Most will slog through it, despite its effects on their productivity and health.
Blame pride, the American spirit or whatever else you want: The reality is, you need to look for hidden signs that your team members need help. You can’t help them if you don’t know what they’re going through.
Your team needs you in times like these. Check in with them if you spot any of the following:
1. Difficulty Concentrating
When there’s a lot on someone’s mind, they have trouble concentrating on what’s right in front of them. This often manifests in subtle ways, such as an increase in breaks or a dip in output.
For example, if you manage a customer service team, declining call volumes could indicate difficulty concentrating. On a product development team, missed deadlines might suggest the same.
You also might reasonably suspect a concentration problem if someone is disengaged in team meetings. A lack of interest in a meeting is usually pretty clear, especially when paired with a bad attitude or lack of participation.
2. Chronic Tardiness
Tardiness tends to take root when team members are experiencing difficulties outside of work. They may arrive late more frequently or try to be the first ones out the door. This may be because they can’t get their mind off of home and family, or because the stress of work is causing them to disengage.
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Harsh accusations won’t help. Before jumping to conclusions, try to deduce the reason for their tardiness. Find ways to help them overcome their tardiness by working through the cause. Perhaps someone simply needs a ride to work until they can afford to fix their car.
3. Decrease in Quality of Work
One of most obvious signs that difficult times are affecting a team member’s productivity is a decline in the quality of their work. This might manifest as cutting corners, missing small details or simply submitting work that doesn’t meet requirements outlined in the brief.
Let’s say you oversee a content creation team. Has the quality of their editing or copywriting taken a hit in recent days? While every writer has a bad day now and again, it shouldn’t be every day. If it is, there’s likely something more on their minds.
4. Social Withdrawal
Every workplace has a social element to it. From water cooler talk to group events outside of work, social activities bring your team closer together both on and off the clock.
If one team member stops attending events like they once did, that’s a tell-tale sign that they’re suffering from low morale. Don’t force them into anything, but encourage them to attend the next social gathering to help them clear their mind. Unwinding with friends and peers now and again can work wonders.
5. Constant Need for Affirmation
Have you noticed a team member asking for approval more often than usual? This could be a sign that recent setbacks have hurt their confidence. They seek affirmation simply as a boost to get through their day.
This uncertainty may also take the form of excessive questioning. Questions about how to perform tasks and asking for guidelines to be repeated could be a sign that your employee is unsure about their personal performance and feels the need to double check everything.
If an employee seems to need extra motivation, give it to them. Complimenting someone costs nothing and can make their day. Just make sure to be genuine: Giving inauthentic compliments is worse than saying nothing at all.
6. Asking for Extra Hours
What manager doesn’t love an employee that’s willing to pick up extra shifts? While this may be welcome on its surface, it might signal something deeper if it’s a new behavior for one of your team members. Personal financial troubles could be worrying them, hence their need to clock more hours.
Working excessive hours can lead to sleep deprivation, exhaustion, strained personal relationships, and reduced productivity. A tired and worried teammate may be on the clock for a long time, but they’ll struggle to pull their weight.
Give them extra hours if they truly need them. Also be sure, however, that they’re getting the rest they need. Encourage them to apply for your employee assistance program, if you offer one. Consider giving them an extra paid day off or two to recover, as well as to straighten things out at home.
7. Missed Deadlines
Deadlines get missed all the time, whether you like it or not. Even the best plans are far from foolproof. This will undoubtedly happen with your team on occasion, but it should be just that: occasional.
Take note if your team starts requesting extensions or misses deadlines when it wasn’t previously an issue. If a trend appears, there may be outside factors affecting your team.
When in doubt, ask. Their work volume might have increased, or they could be juggling more in their personal lives. Be flexible on the deadlines you can be and clear about those that you can’t push back.
Watch your team carefully during times like these. The Covid-19 crisis and social unrest affect everyone in different and rarely positive ways. Your efforts to engage and motivate your team are among the few things that can get them back on track.