With lockdowns in place throughout the globe, the COVID-19 crisis has changed the way we work, practically overnight. Remote working is now the norm for millions of us who used to commute to the office for at least part of every week. While there are undoubtedly some benefits to working from home – not least the time saved on the daily commute – it comes with a host of challenges, particularly when we’re all dealing with the uncertainty and stress of the lockdown environment.
While social-distancing measures are undoubtedly helping to protect our physical health, maintaining our mental wellbeing is a huge challenge now that so many of us are working from home. We’re all missing out on the social interaction that we used to take for granted and we’re facing the varied problems that come with remote working in the lockdown, be that trying to juggle our working lives with caring for and home-schooling children or looking after elderly relatives from a distance, or coping with the isolation of living and working alone. Not to mention the many practical challenges of no longer being able to meet clients and colleagues face to face.
Of course, our mental health has a huge impact on our productivity and performance. And in today’s unsettling times, supporting employees’ mental wellbeing is vital. For the time being, working from home has become the new norm for many of us. So how can we, as organisations, make this massive shift as ‘normal’ as possible and what can we do on a daily basis to support our employees’ mental wellbeing to help them to remain healthy and productive?
Communicate, support and share experiences
Working physically apart actually means we have to work more closely and more collaboratively than ever before. It’s all about communicating and keeping in touch, sharing ideas and supporting one another.
Making your employees continue to feel a valued part of your organisation can help enormously with the mental health challenges of working from home. Communicating regularly and offering work- and non-work-related advice and support are key to your colleagues’ mental wellbeing. Giving your staff platforms to share experiences and ideas as well as to express their concerns can also help to keep them invested in their work as well as connected to their colleagues and their company as a whole.
We wanted to find out how organisations are rising to the working-from-home challenge and supporting their employees’ mental health. So we brought together – virtually, of course – some of our clients from a broad range of industries (financial and professional services, health care, law and mining) to discuss how they’re supporting their employees through this unprecedented time. Below, we’ve summarised the amazing ideas they’ve shared with us. As you’ll see, their approaches fall into several broad areas, with each firm using a mix of communicating, supporting and sharing to help their employees through the new normal of working from home. We were also delighted to hear that many among the group are using Idea Drop to set up support groups and to capture ideas from staff about how to improve their working-from-home experience.
Ideas for supporting your employees’
Ensure regular internal comms
Share work- and non-work-related news and involve senior colleagues in communications.
Establish support groups
Establish company-wide or sub-groups for employees in similar situations e.g., working parents.
Offer practical support and advice
Offer practical support and advice via email, idea platforms, intranet.
Promote routine and encourage proper time for lunch and screen breaks.
Encourage informal, non-work interaction among colleagues
Share experiences and get to know your colleagues better.
Excellent advice from leading global organisations
Here are some of the great strategies the clients we’ve spoken to have put in place to support their employees through the lockdown.
GAM has established a social group to share information about how to stay healthy, offering tips and advice on what works for other people, and links to helpful videos and articles. They’re also rolling out using Idea Drop as a platform to collaborate and share ideas.
The company is encouraging their employees to set aside dedicated times for lunch and other breaks away from their desk to help them to stick to the routine they followed in the office.
Good email habits
Email etiquette has always been important. Now that most of us are working remotely, email chains can quickly become a burden, so GAM are educating their staff on issues like how to use subject lines correctly, to avoid email trails becoming confusing and time-consuming to review.
Informal interaction with colleagues
To bring some informality into online meetings, one of GAM’s senior staff members starts weekly meetings by asking people to bring a pet or wear something whacky.
Taylor Vinters have established support groups for people who are in the same domestic situations, e.g., working parents, staff living alone.
The law firm is encouraging their staff to block off some time in their work calendars to spend away from their screens, walk round the garden or simply take time out to relax. They’ve also encouraged their employees to note down their work schedule in their email signatures, so that colleagues know when they’re available and when they’re not.
Good meeting habits
To avoid end-of-the-day catch-up calls that creep into the evening, Taylor Vinters is encouraging staff to arrange regular catch-up meetings during the morning, so that staff have more control over when to finish their working day.
Eversheds are very aware of the importance of informal social interaction when so much of their employees’ time is taken up with formal contact with clients and colleagues. So they’ve launched a mobile social network app with various forums for sharing non-work-related content like recipe, TV, film and book ideas and suggestions for keeping children amused.
The firm has made a point of highlighting and recognising good work.
Informal interaction with colleagues
They’ve also introduced a ‘chat hour’ to enable staff to engage in some informal interaction with their colleagues. Employees can join the regular video call to chat informally to their colleagues to share experiences and ideas.
With employees in many different locations and in many different working roles, De Beers is sensitive to the need to offer various different means of support. For example, staff who are working from home and have children will be experiencing different problems from those whose role isn’t possible from home. The company is very mindful of how it’s communicating with each group of employees, and is providing regular, targeted updates.De Beers is sharing news about what staff who are unable to work are doing to help their families and local communities, which are often in remote locations. They’re also using Idea Drop to ask the wider workforce for ideas about how to enhance community-related support.
Asking how to help
De Beers has surveyed their staff to ask for feedback on how the company can offer more support.
Dorsey & Whitney’s management, Coronavirus Task Force, and senior staff members are sending out regular communications to provide a high level of transparency about what steps the firm is taking during the COVID-19 crisis.
The law firm is just about to launch their second Idea Drop challenge, asking staff for ideas about how to use the strategies the firm is implementing to deal with COVID-19 to anticipate and respond to future client needs.
Dorsey & Whitney has developed a social media platform for staff, The Dorsey Doorstep, where employees can share experiences, ideas and photos to support their colleagues.
Informal interaction with colleagues
The firm is encouraging employees to hold online coffee gatherings to share experiences as well as tips on working from home and staying safe and healthy.
Like De Beers, the employees at Partners HealthCare have diverse roles and needs (as clinical, support and business staff), and the company is mindful of the importance of offering tailored support.
Many of Partners HealthCare’s workers are medical staff on the frontline of the health care crisis, and the company’s senior management runs regular Zoom calls to update these and other staff on what’s happening in their hospitals.
The organisation is offering their employees a range of practical support, including laundry and food services for medical staff in hospitals, an employee assistance programme and a robust resource guide with advice on a range of issues, including mental wellbeing and how to talk to children about the COVID-19 crisis. In addition, they’re using Idea Drop to ask their staff for ideas for innovation and improvement, for example, better-fitting face shields for medical staff and more efficient processes for running lab results.