On March 20th, 2020, no one from that team was in office – they were all collaboratively running ‘Curiosity’ from their own homes.
There probably are similar or more interesting stories of how extraordinary these times are. And going by a recent Harvard Study, we’ve been jolted into discarding the old “normal,” and are to stay home – off and on – till probably 2022.
With everything in transition, what about learning? Actually, what about the learners?
Beside operations and processes, tools, and tech, mental wellbeing is a crucial consideration now more than ever. For some, work is probably the only, or one of the few set-ups that build that sense of community. Others may see work and other social gatherings as an escape from home. Negative psychological effects range from confusion and anger, right up to PTSD. Besides simply being in quarantine, this stress may also be from a fear of being infected, frustration and boredom, inadequate supplies, and misinformation, or inadequate information.
These are exaggerated by the prospects of the worst economic recession since the great depression and worries about family and friends in viral hotspots. It absolutely gets worse if you’re on the frontline, have lost someone to the virus or during these times, have already lost employment or business, or have an ailing dependent who you’re left to cater to by yourself. Furloughs and attrition may be inevitable, and past cases have amply shown its effects on everyone – including managers and those retained.
In the mid-term, by when organizations begin reinventing and bouncing back to pre-COVID-19 operational outputs, probably every person will have been left to nurse some level of mental disarray.
So how do we, as learning designers, factor this in? Let’s open the discussion with some quick thoughts.
How do we immediately address the upheaval? These answers are unique to every learning group. Identify them, and integrate these into routine communications. Operationally, the answer may be as simple as converting training forums into smaller groups carried out through video conferences or webinars (‘VILTs’ or ‘Virtual ILTs’), relooking at publishing your ILT training decks on a common portal and organizing follow-up discussion groups, etc. Though “simple,” it does ease some amount of the dissonance, for sure.
How about having an open and honest conversation about mental stressors during quarantines and isolations? Let them know they are not the only ones, and surely not alone.
When the going gets tough, it’s a good time to build support systems so the tough can get going. Some steps include regular updates on the status quo, daily or weekly check-ins, “Work-from-Home buddies,” and helplines and other avenues to anonymously report and seek redressal.
It’s important that L&D teams responsibly look into the initial results and data of these initiatives, given how directly it affects talent and organizational development.
Mid- to Long-Term
Many of these initiatives, if done well, will reduce the number of “clinical” cases. However, it may also call for:
Many of the answers may be heuristically achieved. But we must start identifying the possible outcomes.
Where do I begin?
No doubt, if psychological health is openly spoken of and data is collected, such data would be highly sensitive, and susceptible to misinterpretation and misrepresentation. There are inherent risks, and solutions may not be apparent. But we would rather start sooner than later…
In our quest to maintain sound health of body and mind, we will all come up with new perspectives of living and working. Learning needs will surely be viewed differently once this normal begins settling in – right from the topics we choose to learn about, to the tools and experiences we select. Let’s keep an eye out?
– By Jeffrey Neelankavil, Manager – Game Design at MPS Interactive Systems