Over the last month, remote working has come about as a compulsion without any warnings. Although some companies have had flexible working arrangements in place prior to Covid-19, they still find themselves in unchartered waters with multiple teams working from home. I have had constructive conversations with many clients over the last few days and would like to share some initiatives put in place by organisations to keep teams engaged and promote good mental health.
1. Guidance on how to effectively work from home
For many employees this may be their first instance of working from home, finding themselves a bit lost in terms of how to ensure they can work efficiently. Provide your team with clear work goals, expectations and guidance in terms of how to schedule their day/tasks, time management training etc to help them ease into their new ways of working.
2. It is not just a team it is a group of families
Working from home may mean little humans peeking through the camera wanting to be involved in the team meetings. Let’s face it, they live in testing times too and we sometimes expect them to be more understanding and mature than their age. Parents often stress about how their efficiency will be perceived if children are seen around when video meetings are in progress. Clearly communicate to your staff that it is understandable if kids are around occasionally, little distractions are evident as long as they are not the norm.
3. Open communication
Managers must keep the lines of communication open and provide regular information on changes in the business and what is being done to support employees through it. Set the agenda and goals for every scheduled meeting so employees can come prepared to get the most out of meetings. Reiterate that the values of the business cannot be lost with remote working ie. respect for others, working as a team, etc.
Communication is important, but equally important is for managers to be available to listen to their employees. Have an open forum for staff to communicate their personal views about how they feel with the changes/decisions being taken and make clear it is OK to communicate negative feelings if any. It will only take one person to open-up about their struggles which will give others the confidence to share their concerns. Helping employees feel heard will go a long way in maintaining their self-worth and keep up the team spirit.
5. Meditation, mindfulness and exercise
Again, tailor this to the audience. Staff can take turns to run sessions for their teams. Conduct virtual stretching exercises, yoga sessions, basic work outs, meditation and mindfulness exercises. It doesn’t have to be for too long – 20-minute sessions can also reap benefits.
6. Keep it social
Set up a couple of coffee catch ups for staff to get together virtually over a cuppa to chat about all things non-business or maybe a Friday virtual wine o’clock where each staff takes turn to set the theme of the session. Some ideas being – riddle time, showcasing skills like playing an instrument, singing, stand-up comedy, funny dress-ups, etc.
7. Mental health support
Proactively support workers who you identify may be more at risk of workplace psychological injury (e.g. frontline workers or those working from home) and refer workers to appropriate channels to support workplace mental health and wellbeing, such as employee assistance programs. Remind them to check their entitlements for bulk billed services.
8. Training for managers
There are some training companies that are now providing free coaching and forums around how to manage change through COVID19 with emphasis on team management, time management, etc. It is a very interactive way to bounce ideas and learn what is working for other managers or other companies.
Ideas for companies that are fortunate to afford a cash spend in these times:
a. Ergonomic spend
Poor ergonomics can lead to overall muscle weakness, aches and pains, and cause easy fatigue. And let’s face it, this can lead to poor work outcomes. Encourage employees to set up their home office ergonomically. Allow them to expense claim any ergonomic equipment they require to set up their home office. Set an expense limit or offer to pay a part of the expense.
b. Special Covid leave
Some companies have allowed access to special paid leave for up to 2 weeks for employees whose job cannot be done from home and have to be in isolation, caring for their children, or at-risk family members or for all employees who have directly come in contact with a person confirmed with Covid.
c. Care Package
Put together little care packages for your employees as a way to show their support. You can add in a little handwritten note which will be the most appreciated content in the package. Tailor your package based on what your staff will appreciate – comfort items like coffee, cookies, or a little bottle of lavender essential oil for its calming effects, or a book about staying resilient, etc.
d. Organisational Psychologist Q&A
Set up a video session with a qualified organisational psychologist to guide staff through their psychosocial challenges, concerns and fears. An open forum will benefit everyone by bouncing off on each other’s topics.
Finally, remember this is a novel situation we all find ourselves in. Trust that everyone is trying to do their best; we are all in this together. Together we can support each other and overcome the current challenges more effectively. Take care and stay safe!