During the COVID-19 shutdown, we all learned a new term: the frontline worker. Since the spring of 2020, frontline workers have put their health and lives on the line working in industries critical to keeping our economy running. Healthcare workers, firefighters, and grocery store employees, among others, have to work outside their homes, at continual risk of exposure. While I had the luxury of staying safely at home in front of my computer, my spouse, who is a manager in the transportation industry, went in to work every day. Thankfully so far, none of his co-workers have contracted Covid on the job.
Staff who negotiated the first waves of the pandemic with resilience may be hitting the wall now. The relentless stress of this season is incapacitating some of our best employees. If you are a supervisor, you may wonder how to recognize and respond to traumatized members of your team. Five key practices will help you provide a trauma-informed workspace.
In the next year it is likely that your congregation will have to fire someone. As we come out of the pandemic, every congregation will have to reevaluate its staffing structure. Do you have the right people with the right skills to lead your congregation through the next chapter? Some new hires may be needed, requiring painful terminations to free up precious payroll dollars. Acting with integrity as you fire people can make all the difference in helping your congregation cope with difficult transitions.
In the early days of the pandemic, accommodation was the name of the game when it came to helping staff negotiate huge work/life challenges. Inadequate technology at home, loss of childcare, children studying virtually from home, and spouses negotiating shared workspace. We leaned heavily into the grace side of our employment relationships. Now staff teams are experiencing some of the downsides of grace without accountability.
How is remote work changing us, and which of the changes will remain once the pandemic is over? What problems are arising as staff work from home, and what advantages are turning up? What does this all tell us about the future of work in congregations? I am working on an Augsburg Fortress book about working remotely, and I want to share some of my early findings with you.
We live in a culture that trains us to think of problems as “our problems.” As pastors, too often, we think that we must figure out how to grow the church, make sure the budget is balanced, and ensure that programs are well attended. I certainly did. Many of my colleagues feel the same way. It is a heavy burden to bear.
When all the actors understand their responsibilities and respect their boundaries, both the staff and the congregation are more likely to enjoy a healthy staff environment.