The COVID-19 restrictions have had a fundamental impact on the way we work, the way we live and, to an extent, our physical health. But the extent to which the lockdown, and the subsequent trend towards more remote working long-term, has affected people’s mental health has been somewhat overlooked.
24% of adults have reported to have felt lonely during the first two weeks of lockdown in late March and early April.
Even more concerning is that this figure rises to 44% among young adults aged under 25.
While these statistics are based off UK research, looking at the bigger picture that with millions of people around the world now doing their jobs, without the social contact, it’s clear that businesses need to take action to help safeguard the wellbeing of their workforces.
So what can you do to help your workforce?
Every team and employee will have different needs and motivations, of course, but these four tips are an excellent place to start:
1. Make the effort to connect
Sometimes even a small gesture can make a big difference to a person’s mental outlook; and in times of economic uncertainty, when many people will be worried about the future of their jobs, they will want to feel reassured as much as possible and feel valued by their employer as a whole.
That’s why it can be extremely useful to get in touch with your colleagues – either at regular intervals set out in a schedule or ad hoc – to see how they’re feeling, both in and out of work. Knowing that their manager is willing to reach out to them, and has their health front of mind, can help dispel any feelings of isolation or low self-worth.
2. Review your support services
All responsible employers will already have processes and services in place to support workers who feel lonely, isolated or are suffering from any other difficulties. But even the best services in the world are pointless if employees either don’t feel they can access them quickly and discreetly, or don’t even know how to do so.
Now is therefore a crucial time to review not only the services you have in place, but the accessibility to them, too. Different working models might affect how employees are able to reach out when they need help. Once you feel the right services are in place, the means of using them can be fully and clearly communicated to everyone within the workforce.
3. Get physical when you can
Blended working models, where people combine home and office work, will make team-building more difficult in the months and years to come. But building strong relationships between employees will remain immensely valuable to a team, in terms of productivity and collaboration just as much as the psychological benefits of being able to socialize.
So however your team will be working from now on, make sure you schedule in some time for some (properly distanced!) face-to-face contact that includes every different person within your team. That may just be one day a month you are all in the office, or a certain Friday night where you meet up for a meal as regulations allow. But one way or another, it’s essential that you replace the day-to-day social interactions that will easily disappear through remote working.
4. Give workers a feeling of control
An employee who is working remotely, is could be feeling isolated and is having work piled onto them is unlikely to be a happy worker. Neither is a person who doesn’t know where or when they or their colleagues are working from one day to the next likely to feel organized or productive. Now more than ever, employees need to feel like they’re in control of their working arrangements, and that they aren’t being left in the dark.
A workspace that offers technology solutions to aid in get back to the office safely, that works across multiple devices can help deliver an organized, transparent approach to working patterns. Within moments, an employee can check on the real-time status of any other employee, including where they’re working, which meetings they’re booked in for and when they’re available to collaborate.
Ultimately, it can mean that however remotely someone is working, they can always remain in touch; and overall, that their health and wellbeing remains a top priority going forward wherever they choose to work.