By Adrian Johansen
In many ways, it seems astonishing that it has now been more than a year since COVID-19 entered our lives and changed the world as we know it. Now, as we face another spring under pandemic conditions, we have new hope: vaccines have been developed and are being distributed. New and effective therapeutics are emerging. There is, indeed, a light at the end of the tunnel.
Despite this, the fact remains that we are still in a dark place. The virus continues to surge and mutate. Lockdowns persist and, in some areas, are increasing. And we are all, every last one of us, tired.
And that means that, as a business leader, you’re facing particular challenges, tasked with supporting your employees through what may well be the most difficult period in their lives. Not only this but if your team is one of the millions that has transitioned to telework in the wake of the outbreak, then that means you’re also obliged to nurture and lead your employees without the benefit of hands-on, in-person support.
Nevertheless, your employees need your support, both professionally and personally, now more than ever. This article describes strategies you can use to help promote your employees’ health and happiness through the end of the pandemic — and beyond.
One of the most significant challenges employees face when working remotely is the sense of isolation and loneliness. When you combine this with the loss of social activities during the lockdowns, and the necessity to remain socially distanced from friends and loved ones, your team is likely feeling deeply disconnected, putting them at significant risk of anxiety and depression. Indeed, according to a report from Monster, nearly 70% of remote employees indicate that they are experiencing burnout as a result of working from home.
For this reason, you must look for creative ways to help your team connect regularly, even if it must be only in the virtual space. The great news is that it’s not all that difficult to do. For example, video conferencing doesn’t just have to be about business. Consider hosting an online trivia night or scavenger hunt for your team and their families, complete with prizes, or a pizza party lunch hour; arrange to have the delicious treats delivered to your employees’ homes just in time for you all to enjoy together online. Random acts of kindness aren’t just for the line at the coffee shop. Surprising your team members with a gift you know they want — and having an online reveal party — can be a phenomenal way to boost morale and team unity.
Setting up instant messaging systems, such as Slack, for use throughout the workday can help the virtual office feel a bit more like the physical workplace. Establishing a daily check-in time on your messaging platform can ensure you’re able to take the temperature of the team and identify team members who might need a little additional support.
Creating Wellness Programs
Another highly effective strategy you can use to support remote workers’ physical and mental health is to provide them with the tools they need to cultivate their wellness, both individually and as a team.
For example, you might offer your workers the opportunity to sign up for live online classes dedicated to fitness and mental health: these could include anything from online yoga training, dance classes, and even meditation and mental health sessions.
It is also a great idea to offer wellness incentives that employees can use privately, during their personal time. Offering mental and behavioral health counseling through telehealth, for instance, can help employees who may be struggling with mental illness or addiction during these challenging times.
Setting the Scene
When your employees’ home is also their office, it can be very difficult for them to separate the two. And that’s a problem because remote workers can feel intense pressure to be “always on” call, which can quickly spiral into stress-related physical and mental illnesses.
That means you will need to work hard to help your employees establish a work-from-home routine that works for them. For example, employees need to be encouraged or even required to maintain a healthy work/life balance, which means that you might require your staff to establish a work schedule with clear and consistent off-hours that you, your employee, and your team faithfully honor.
To minimize distractions and reduce stress, your employees will need a dedicated workspace, preferably with a door that can be closed during work time, if possible. But it’s not just having a workspace that matters: your employees will be happier, less stressed, and more productive if their office space is filled with good vibes. Consider offering a checklist to help your employees set up a happy and comfortable home office, from the kind of lighting they choose to the incorporation of green plants, inspiring artwork, and beloved mementos.
There’s no question that the coronavirus has infiltrated almost every aspect of our lives. But that doesn’t mean that you can’t offer your employees a safe, healthy, and happy working environment, even in the virtual space. The goal is to be strategic, thoughtful, and, above all, supportive.