Lockdown reveals employee confidence crisis

Workers are struggling with their self-esteem during Covid-19, but these issues are part of a longer-term problem

COVID-19 has exacerbated an underlying mental health crisis in the workplace, according to a new study. The research, led by confidence coach and author, Kirsty Hulse, found widespread confidence issues among furloughed employees and those seeking promotions and new jobs.

The study suggests that workers are suffering from a crisis of confidence during COVID-19 with 94% of people having turned down a job role because of nerves while 38% said no to job promotions due to low confidence. Twenty-nine per cent of respondents also said they didn’t apply to job roles because of low self-esteem.

While employee confidence was a problem in the workplace before the pandemic, the lockdown has made people feel more “impacted” by these issues, said Hulse, who remains an advocate of the mental health and productivity-related benefits of homeworking.

Below is her new five-step affirmation guide to help employees work on their job confidence at home:

1. Set an ambition to become your own cheerleader. Write it down. Commit to it. We cannot develop confidence overnight, but our intention tells us we are worth a shot.

2. Create a success spreadsheet. We often focus on what’s ahead, forgetting to reflect on how far we have come. Acknowledge and integrate your growth by consistently logging wins and reminding yourself when you need it.    

3. Ask for feedback. Sometimes, we just need reassurance. Ask those that you can trust around you. “What do you think I do well? What are my talents?” The answers will often surprise you.

4. Stop saying stop. When we want to be more confident, we tend to say “stop being nervous, stop overthinking.” Instead, think about what you need to start for that to happen. This gives us a directive and moves us from judgement to action.

5. Think about who you are when you’re confident. What do you wear? How do you stand? How do you speak? How do you treat others? Have a clear, mental picture, and start by embodying that for a few moments every day.

Commenting on the research Hulse said: “Our confidence findings are just the highlights reel of the large mass of issues employees across the globe are experiencing every single day. These five quick things, easy things, tiny tweaks, that when done with genuine intention to grow, will boost your confidence, right now, in this very moment. Do these five things with consistency and compassion as a regular practice. Remember, what gets celebrated, gets repeated.”

Employee confidence: the statistics

Employee confidence issues predate the coronavirus crisis and its noted impact on workers’ mental health. In 2015, a UK study found that 35% of people questioned lacked the confidence to ask their employer for a pay rise while 20% said they missed out on a promotion due to a lack of self-belief. These statistics prove that while the current lockdown period has made workplace mental health issues such as confidence struggles more apparent, it is part of a long-term problem that employers should be trying to help their staff overcome.

What employers can do

Employers can do more to make the workplace, whether office-based or remote, an environment where workers feel able to speak up about their professional goals. Keeping lines of communication open is a good place to start. If an employer fosters a culture where employees feel able to discuss their role, they may feel more confident about asking for a pay-rise, promotion, or advice on improving. Showing open appreciation when an employee does a good job could also boost confidence in the staff who need it while providing clear feedback on projects could help an employee evaluate their performance and become more assertive in their role.

How furloughed staff can build their confidence

Mental health charity, Mind has found that those on furlough commonly experience low self-esteem. While they have listed recommendations to help furloughed employees deal with their mental health, they can use some of the points to build their confidence. This includes keeping up communication with colleagues and line managers. Regularly checking in with colleagues may reduce feelings of loneliness and help furloughed staff feel confident about their place in the business upon their return to work. Mind also recommends they develop their skills through elective learning which could increase confidence in their abilities when they return to work.

You can find out more about Kirsty at here.


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