There is no playbook to manage a pandemic.
Over the last couple of weeks we have seen countries closing their borders, the stock market collapsing and companies forced to transform their mode of operations simply to survive. While there are many challenges associated with a remote workforce, such as isolation and sustaining performance, one challenge that is commonly overlooked, is managing employee work-life balance and well-being.
During these difficult times, we must remember that it is up to us, as company leaders and team carers to provide the support and tools which employees need and expect. After conversing with our corporate partners, in industries ranging from law and banking to advertising and publishing, we have summarised the key initiatives which are empowering companies to overcome feelings of isolation and disconnect amongst their workforce.
For better or worse, the response which businesses have in front of this crisis, will determine whether employees stick around after this is over. In addition, the high levels of creativity and proactivity required to survive the current circumstances, can only be achieved with each member of the team giving their very best.
The following tips will empower you to support your employees in prioritising their physical and mental wellness, developing a healthy routine and staying motivated and focused regardless of their location.
1. Provide opportunities for social interaction
Working from home for a week may feel like a blessing, but doing this over an extended period of time can be challenging for those accustomed to interacting with their colleagues every day. Ensure that you have inclusive comms and tools in place to make your employees feel heard and cared for. For instance, daily video calls to catch up with everyone can make a huge difference for morale and team spirit. Why stop there? Use technology to your advantage and organise weekly, virtual team socials. This will do wonders for people’s mental health during isolation and ensure that the team remains bonded, while strengthening your people-focused culture. Furthermore, productivity improves by 20-25% in companies with connected employees. At Heka, we have increased the frequency of our Wellness Wednesdays from a monthly to a weekly basis, and use those opportunities to relax together with a virtual yoga session or meditation.
2. Establish a daily structure
Without supervision and the strict 9 to 5, it is very easy to lose all sense of structure and routine. This not only decreases productivity and focus, but can also create stress, anxiety and negatively impact mental health and motivation. Try setting designated times for people to share their daily stand-ups or sit-downs and also create other check-in points throughout the week. Remember, not all check-ins have to be work related; why not organise a virtual team lunch every Wednesday for people to have something to look forward to?
3. Offer encouragement
It is important to understand that at times like this, individuals will have many reasons to be stressed, anxious and worried. Be open to these sorts of conversations and understand that you may need to make exceptions and provide flexibility around certain things. Sadly, only 49% of employees in the UK feel that their ideas are taken seriously, which is why strict systems must be set in place to ensure your company is not only listening, but acting upon the needs of your people. Often, employees will require additional help and guidance, so make sure you can direct them to suitable services like online meditations, counselling and life coaching, which can help them be at their best personally and professionally.
4. Enforce work-life balance
While the likelihood of underperformance and distractions increases when working remotely, it is equally as likely that people will overwork due to blurred lines between office and home. This can result in burnout, low morale and diminishing productivity. Hence, companies must not only encourage, but enforce a healthy work-life balance. For instance, make sure you respect offline hours, avoid posting on work channels outside of designated times and recommend that people turn off work notifications after 5pm. Furthermore, set times for breaks and lunch to encourage people to take time-off throughout the day. This is something we take very seriously at GoSweat and you can learn more about the guidelines we have implemented in our business here.
5. Provide tools to support mental and physical wellness
As regulations with regards to staying at home become stricter, it is crucial that employees find a way to unwind and release some steam while indoors. Experiences like online yoga, meditation and on-demand HIIT classes can be the best tools to relax and reset at any point of the day. In some instances, personal coaching and training may also be necessary to counter people’s frustrations with being stuck at home and seemingly less capable of achieving their wellness objectives. Ensure that you offer employees an easy way to access these tools and services virtually.
Research has found that anxiety is contagious and indeed, the way your team reacts to these uncertain times, will be largely influenced by the general business response. You can support their well-being through positive reinforcement, a calm approach and overall, a people-focus.