Covid-19 has changed at lot about how we work. After the Government’s announcement that those who could work from home should now do so, many employers have seen a rapid shift in how, and where, its employees carry out their roles.
Busy offices stand empty with their inhabitants scattered to the four winds, and isolation has many more strands to it than simply “social isolation” that is now required of us all to beat this virus. The change in working dynamic and the loss of colleagues, community and face to face support can be quite difficult for some employees to adjust to. During this time of great uncertainty, it is more important than ever for employers to take care of their employees’ mental wellbeing.
In this strange new world, there are a number of unique challenges we face, but maintaining good mental and physical well-being is far from an impossible task.
For example, many employees are finding that without their long commutes, they have more time to do things they enjoy, such as taking the time to lie in and have a leisurely breakfast, or to fit in exercise before they start work or during their lunch break. On-line yoga and exercise classes are booming. Work colleagues can still be brought together through technology in informal sessions and team events and should be encouraged to do so.
Employers should therefore take the opportunity to evaluate how they can ensure employees feel supported in their new working environment. Here, the value of good communication cannot be understated. This could take the form of regular whole department meetings, smaller team discussions, or one-to-one chats, and these have a variety of purposes; keeping everyone informed of business plans and impact of current events, to check in on how they are coping working from home, or a simple reminder that they should take breaks from the work station as it is so easy to feel the need to “be seen” to be working when you can’t be seen. In this time of uncertainty, regular and consistent communications will ensure the team is on the same page, even if they are not in the same room.
Employers should encourage managers to speak to their teams about their wellbeing and to check how they are dealing with new ways of working. A line manager who knows how to engage with their team to understand what is working well, and where they are facing challenges, will be able to address any issues effectively and ensure the productivity of the team remains high. A compassionate manager is also far more likely to be approached by employees if there is a problem, which again will lead to a faster resolution and benefit the business.
However, don’t forget that work colleagues can play a huge role as mentors and support where employees are uncomfortable about approaching management and are happier speaking with their colleagues. Take advantage of them to create small informal networks that can offer support. Use the multitude of apps or programs that allow employees to communicate with each other as effectively as they would do in the office. This can reduce any feelings of isolation by encouraging online collaboration and can give employees the means to check up on each other in a more informal manner.
While this may be the new normal for now, employers who take the time to look after their employees’ wellbeing now will likely reap the benefits for a long time to come.