Almost every company around the globe requires their employees to work from home to prevent the spread of COVID-19, and most certainly it will remain so in many coming weeks. During these challenging times amidst the frightening pandemic, the immediate health benefits of avoiding common workspaces are plenty and obvious; but, it is quintessential to consider the mental health consequences that can come with working in isolation.
Because every employee is working away from their team and may even be home alone, the mental health repercussions are quite profound. The evidence linking to loneliness perceived by social isolation can lead to some adverse health consequences including depression, poor sleep quality, impaired executive function, accelerated cognitive decline, poor cardiovascular function and impaired immunity at every stage of life, says psychologist Louise Hawkley, PhD, a senior research scientist at the research organization NORC at the University of Chicago. Fortunately, there are some best exercises companies can encourage and implement that will help employees stay connected.
Here are some tips designed to assist the employees right away followed with a note on how you can implement the idea effectively to help your employees’ mental health.
1. Daily check-in meetings
This might seem too obvious, but it was not a common occurrence in a pre-COVID-19 time. In this current climate, it is necessary for you to communicate with your peers and know how they are keeping up with this current scenario. Doing a daily meeting can help employees from feeling so isolated.
How to implement effectively: You can pick a standard video chat app like Google hangouts or zoom and set some guidelines for these check-ins, such as asking every employee to leave their microphone on at all times and to show their video feed. By this practice, you can note the body language of your colleagues and hear how they are talking and reacting on certain things.
2. Flexible time before and after meetings
Technology has enabled us to join the meetings on a single click of a button, either on phone or laptop. An employer must understand that the employees would be available on the call at the earliest; however, they would not be mentally prepared for the meeting. So, for a fruitful meeting, casual conversations should happen before talking shop. This practice brings all the participants into the mindset of the flexible work environment.
How to implement effectively: For this practice to bring productive results, managers need to empathize and be patient enough to understand the repercussions of the pandemic themselves. They should avoid the old habit of diving right onto the business rather sparing some fun chat time for every meeting and let the conversation flow freely. Ensure that every employee has a voice and has the time to “shoot the breeze” over Zoom as a way to alleviate stress.
3. Encourage work time exercise
As employees are spending most of their time in a single room, it becomes difficult for them to relieve their stress. Although the employer is not responsible for the physical health of an employee; however, we have witnessed a paradigm shift in this type of culture. Furthermore, this has changed in these challenging times enormously. Exercise is one of the most important methods of relieving stress and helping employees feel less isolated.
How to implement effectively: As a responsible manager, you can create an exercise program for your employees and create a reward system for completing the tasks such as a certain number of steps completed indoors or 20 mins meditation. You can even hold this on Zoom with employees using a smartphone and talking as they do the workout. To make this more effective, you could hold the exercise meet-up at the same time every day.
4. Focused mental health chats
Addressing mental health issues specifically can work tremendously. As the pandemic lingers, and we stay in lockdown at home, we may face feelings of depression, loneliness, and anxiety which could deter our productivity. A more focused discussion about mental health — one where you hire a counsellor to help your employees — may also be necessary.
How to implement effectively: First of all, you need to dig your budgets to cover the cost associated with hiring a mental health professional and incorporate this exercise into your work schedule. It might not be optional as time goes by.