By Craig Bulow, Corporate Away Days
Although the Government is now encouraging people to go back to work where they can many are still stuck at home. For employees with no immediate end to remote working in sight it is important that businesses consider how this is affecting them.
I’m not talking about the medical aspect of avoiding or dealing with contracting Covid-19, but rather the mental health impact of the worry, the uncertainty and the isolation that the virus is continuing to cause.
Here are 7 things to consider, as an employer, to help look after the mental wellbeing of your staff:
- Stress about job security
The ongoing situation means that people are going to be stressed. They are stressed about what ‘Stay alert’ means, about loved ones they still can’t see, about whether they are doing a good job from home and, generally, about job security.
One of the proven acts to alleviating stress is to have clear, honest and regular conversations with your team. Call them and have a chat. Put a time in your diary to speak to them – don’t just leave it to chance.
Let them know what the business is doing, tell them the truth – don’t sugar coat it. Help people understand what the company is doing and what plans it has. The truth may not be pleasant, but it is always better than a lie. If your employee loses trust when working remotely, it can be very toxic.
As well as individual conversations, bring your group together virtually and acknowledge the stresses everyone is feeling. Encourage honest, open discussion.
- The office atmosphere
Working from home means we lose the human connection we normally get with our colleagues in the office. This human connection is an incredibly important part of going to work and boosts engagement and morale. For many people, the social aspect of work is more important than the work itself or even the money – so this connection needs to be maintained.
If you aren’t already doing so organise regular group conference calls using Zoom or Skype. And if you are doing them, keep going as they are invaluable. Wherever possible, ensure calls are video calls where you can all see each other. You can smile and wave to one another. You can include time to talk about work, the latest developments of the Government’s advice about Covid-19 and the lockdown, and any worries and concerns you have. And allow time for a chat about non-work-related issues too. Ask your team how their families are, where they are exercising, what recipes they are trying etc.
Make connecting with colleagues and getting to know them socially, as well as professionally, part of the new culture within the business, and actively encourage it while working remotely. Why not try a game where, for example, you pretend your pets or family members are your co-workers and speak about them (“one of my co-workers slept all day under my feet today but the other kept barking at passers-by”).
This way you can keep the connection your team enjoys in the office and even build upon it.
- Make counselling available
As an employer, it would be beneficial to offer staff some form of counselling, particularly as their remote working period extends. This could either be with an internal wellbeing / trained HR Officer or an external professional. You could offer this on a group basis as well; arrange a group conference call to share concerns with a number of employees at the same time.
The calls could be used to talk through various tools that can be used to reduce stress and anxiety; covering mindfulness techniques, sleep, rest, nutrition and diet and how to keep calm and focused. At Corporate Away Days, we are partnered with a number of Wellbeing and Mental Health professionals who can organise virtual workshops to assist your team whilst they are working from home.
- Feeling socially isolated
Humans tend to be naturally gregarious, so being told to self-isolate is a challenge. Help your employees understand ways they can be social safely.
Within reason, be flexible about where they fit communicating with colleagues, friends and family into their working day. If they belong to clubs or groups outside work encourage them to use apps such as Houseparty or Zoom to replicate their usual meeting; whether that’s a book club, choir or wine tasting.
Link your team with community sites that can hook them up with an isolated person who needs to chat and encourage them to make the most of their daily exercise outings, without breaking the distancing rules. For example, you can still smile at, speak to and wave at people on your walk, as long as you are a sensible distance away.
Perhaps now is a good time for virtual team building or perhaps a social event, such as a quiz or watch party.
- Keeping people motivated while everyone is apart
Encouraging your team to exercise, particularly now they can go out and exercise more than once a day. Exercise is a great way to keep them motivated and keep their mental health strong. Suggest they lay a mat inside / outside and do stretches, push ups, sit ups, planks, some form of body strengthening as well as cardio.
Then ask your team to share their routines and findings with colleagues, creating another topic for self-maintenance and the pandemic survival at home.
Trusting and empowering staff to work from home is a great motivator in itself. If your team feels they are achieving what they need and are being recognised and praised for it, they can look forward to a time when the virus has beaten a retreat and they can work this way to really achieve some work-life balance.
Make your goals short-term. Even after several weeks it is still the case that we don’t know how long this will last. If goals can be achieved in a short time-frame, it is a great way to encourage your team to stay focussed and also gives you as an employer a good excuse to sing the praises of your team on a regular basis.
- Give them something to look forward to
Some of the best stress relivers are fun and laughter.
Giving your team something to look forward to, something exciting, would be a perfect way to keep them motivated, inspired and create a conversation / discussion on that group chat that has been set up.
For example, an away day out of the office with a wellbeing theme, an activity that is inspiring and engaging that allows individuals to reconnect and rebuild connections after a long period of isolation. www.corporate-away-days.co.uk offer 27 live wellbeing events that aim to connected individuals from all corners of the workplace, at all levels.
- Thanking them for their hard work and coping in this difficult situation.
It is good to look ahead. Be creative – but keep within budgets – to make sure your team knows you appreciate them. If you can’t afford a “back-to-normal bonus”, think of something else that will make them glad to be returning to normality. Can you offer them each an extra week’s holiday or a fabulous summer party? Who knows, if they found they really thrived working remotely, perhaps doing that more often could be the reward!
Employers really can make a difference to the employee experience when working remotely and to succeed you need your team, so you must be putting their mental health and wellbeing right at the top of your list. It could even mean your business emerging stronger than ever and using the skills it took to survive to go on to thrive!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Craig Bulow is the founder of Corporate Away Days, a corporate wellbeing events company delivering engaging, inspiring and exciting events focussed on Wellbeing and Reward activities. Corporate Away Days also creates, designs and builds corporate wellbeing policies and provides leading experts for interactive workshops, seminars and talks on improving mental health and overall wellbeing.