The coronavirus crisis has changed how we work, with most staff of non-essential businesses now working remotely from home. This has presented IT and logistical hurdles, but it also means rethinking how business owners and managers support their team’s mental health and wellbeing – especially during this most challenging of times. Sophie Forrest of Forrest HR has pulled together her top five tips for supporting your staff when you can no longer have a natter at the water cooler.
Necessity is the mother of invention – and the urgency and new reality of the coronavirus crisis has certainly led to us reimagining how we run our companies.
Many businesses are now successfully operating remotely, but it’s hard to replicate that human, personal touch, that we as social animals crave – even more than normal when it has been taken away from us at all levels.
On top of potential fears about the consequences of the coronavirus for themselves and their loved ones and the strain of supervising home learning and keeping cooped-up children amused, your staff are also having to handle their own responses to working in isolation.
This probably varies day by day: some days they may be delighted that they don’t have to commute or get into smart work clothes, other days they may simply miss normal office banter.
While it’s harder to support your team’s mental health and wellbeing when you don’t see them daily, the current climate means it’s also more important than ever.
As their manager, although you’re not responsible for the full impact of lockdown on their lives, doing what you can to maintain a supportive work culture and inject as much contact and fun into the work element of their pandemic experience will help keep them engaged and enthusiastic.
# 1 Ensure staff can work from home comfortably
You’ve probably already made sure they have the tools they need to do their job, such as the right IT equipment and phone lines, but you also need to ensure they have a “workable” space in their home.
That doesn’t mean building an extension for them, but it does mean you take reasonable measures to ensure they’re comfortable. The odd hour sitting in a kitchen chair to work may be fine, but sitting in it for a seven-hour day could be storing up future musculoskeletal problems, in which case you may need to supply a proper office chair or desk.
# 2 Keep the team spirit alive
Whilst working remotely may feel normal and easy to adopt for some, it can be very hard for others to adjust. Have regular catch ups with staff, both individually and as a team – this is important to know what your staff are working on but also to ensure they are receiving regular contact with you and their colleagues.
Improved communication and collaboration through social technologies could raise the productivity of interaction workers by 20 to 25 percent, according to a report by McKinsey Global Institute.
# 3 Set the ground rules and give regular feedback
It’s important to guide staff through this change in routine. Make sure they know what is expected of them; if you want to know when they are online in the morning, tell them this. Also manage their expectations about your availability and how you can support them. And make sure you praise their hard work – don’t adopt out of sight out of mind!
# 4 Encourage staff to maintain their own physical and mental health
Ensure that staff are taking breaks and engaging in physical exercise. There are lots of great new online lockdown video work outs available, from Joe Wicks to local personal trainers and yoga teachers, with many of them free.
Encourage your team to take advantage of these – you could even set up a team leader board within some of the competitive apps and see if you can challenge one another to achieve more.
Happy workers are up to 13% more productive, according to research by Oxford University.
# 5 Inject fun
Working on your own can mean greater productivity due to the lack of distractions – but it also means less fun, which we all need: the number of social media memes and videos circulating lockdown humour are testimony to this.
So, try and invent some imaginative ways to bring back the office humour. You could try introducing ‘joke of the day’, ‘exercise of the day’ or ‘bring your favourite drink to the end of the week team meeting’ – you could even award prizes for the most lavish garnishes!
Staff are vital to business success, so it’s important that as business owners we support our staff through this challenging time. After all, as we’re all finding in lockdown, the small things can make the biggest difference.
For more help and support on how to manage your team through lockdown, get in touch today.