Looking at the news right now can be more than enough to stress out your average person. Between the ongoing pandemic, protests against systemic racism and police brutality, the continued effects of climate change, and political tensions, the average employee has a lot to worry about. While it would be great if everyone could simply “shut off” and ignore the outside world while at work, human beings just aren’t built like that. In these stressful and unpredictable times, external factors have taken a definite toll on employee mental health and wellbeing.
Few people could have predicted how 2020 would play out. But it’s up to businesses to adapt to new challenges and continue to support their employees as best they can. Poor mental health can directly impact job performance, and workplaces that encourage employees to care for their mental and emotional wellbeing have happier, healthier workers. If current events are taking a toll on your staff, here are some ways to support and uplift them in these difficult times.
It is crucially important to stay in constant communication with your team. While remote work has numerous advantages, one of its few flaws is that it can leave workers feeling isolated. Keep the conversation thriving with daily one-on-one check-ins or morning rendezvous with your team. Social distancing doesn’t mean we can’t still be social! Social interaction with other people is actually a necessity to maintain our mental and physical health. Find ways to connect with your staff, even if it’s just a quick call to catch-up.
“Our team has implemented 15-minute informal video calls at the beginning and end of each day to combat a decline in overall collaboration and lack of socialization while working remotely. We're also doing "house tours" on these video calls, for those of us who are comfortable, just to have some fun and share more about ourselves!” - Brittany Frank | Outcomes and Graduate Success Coordinator at DevMountain
One of the things people miss most about the office is being able to go out and have lunch with their coworkers. Everyone loves a chance to relax, unwind, and chat with their colleagues outside of a work setting. If your staff is missing their lunch dates, set up a virtual one over Zoom! Order in or whip something tasty up in the kitchen, then hop on call with your team for a social distancing friendly lunch. Scheduling time for your team to bond off the clock is important for fostering a healthy workplace culture and gives your team that much-needed dose of social interaction. Though it may seem a little awkward to down that shawarma or cold pizza while on a video conferencing call, doing this gives everyone a chance to take a much needed break and catch up.
“We’re currently all on a “lunch break” together via Zoom. My gaming discord also just set up a #WFH open voice channel so people can hop in and out to chat whenever they’re feeling lonely” -YiYi | Marketing at Clutch Talent
Probably our second favorite part of the day, right? The after-work drink to take the edge off and let off steam with colleagues used to be a staple of many workers’ week. If your team is the type to get drinks together, schedule a remote happy hour. Employees can whip up their favorite cocktails and boozy beverages at home, then hop on to relax and unwind with the team.
Not a drinker? Not a problem! Share fun non-alcoholic drink recipes ahead of time and you can still participate in all the toasts and cheers.
The science is clear: exercise is great for reducing stress, increasing endorphins, and improving mental well being. Get a group together and stretch out with a nice yoga session, a barre routine, or a simple at-home workout. Some businesses may choose to offer memberships to their employees. (At Joonko, we’re fans of ClassPass.) Other options like Beachbody on Demand can offer your team various ways to burn off that stress and any unwanted quarantine weight.
“A few members of my company have scheduled daily meditations via Zoom.” - Andy Ng | Senior Program Manager at SYPartners
Many businesses have taken a major hit to their budgets this year. While money may be tight, consider extra perks that can help employees thrive while working through these stressful circumstances. Try setting some goals and providing rewards for reaching them. Whoever made the most sales, for example, or generated the most leads could receive a gift card or bottle of wine as a reward for their extra efforts. Recognizing and celebrating your team’s achievements is crucial to keeping morale high, especially right now.
“We use Zestful for perks and rewards, we match $50 each month and have encouraged employees to seek subscriptions to apps like Calm and Headspace - if that’s not a feasible long term solution I would recommend offering it short term for one month or two. ” - Charmagne Gomes | Head of People at Informed.co
Here at Joonko, we’ve been coming up with all sorts of ways to keep the team entertained. We’ve played games like Kahoot! Quizzing one another on fun facts and surprising details, which was a moment of camaraderie with some of the people we love most! Taking some time to set work aside and have some fun is a great way to build camaraderie between employees, make some good memories, and get some laughs in.
“We wanted to maintain the fun we all have together in the office, but from home. So, in addition to games, we still try to meet every day, have fun and keep that Joonko spirit alive.” - Tom Ketter | Software Engineer at Joonko 🚀
Let’s get real for a second: times are incredibly tough. Most people are going through some sort of struggle right now, whether that’s mentally, physically or financially, this year seems to have thrown challenges of all sorts at everyone. If it’s a feasible option for your office, set aside an emergency fund and inform employees how to request access in the event of an unexpected issue should arise. Having a relief fund in place can give your remote employees a sense of security and reaffirms that their employer cares about not just their productivity, but their well being.
As we take to our online communication tools, set up a #channel on Slack or maybe a company group on Facebook to share show recommendations or music. Some workplaces have Slack channels dedicated to sharing work-appropriate memes or jokes. Having avenues where employees can occasionally communicate about non-work related subjects allows your staff to bond and have fun even when they’re working from home. Whether your workers want to post cat photos or argue about who the real villain of Netflix’s Tiger King is, give them room to be people, not just employees.
We could all use a friend through this, so why not open up a little bit? Consider hosting a virtual support group just to talk through the issues that employees are facing. We’re all having to shift our way of thinking and adapt quickly, and that’s not always easy for everyone. During the ongoing protests against police brutality, Black employees in particular may need extra support. Consider bringing in a professional to help address employee’s mental health concerns.
If that isn’t a feasible option for your company, establish an open forum to talk about the issues they’re struggling with. Being open and vulnerable may seem a little awkward, scary, or even unprofessional to some. But vulnerability builds strong, long-lasting relationships that will ultimately strengthen your team in the weeks to come.
Now is a great time to consider giving your team an opportunity to grow their skill sets. There are many resources available for professional development. Take a look at Google Garage, Skillshare, Udemy, or Coursera for online courses on everything from knitting to the art of the sales pitch. If an employee is interested in professional development, give them the tools and resources they need to grow. Increasing their skills and credentials is a win-win situation for your business and your employees, and there’s no better time to learn something new than when we’re all cooped up at home.
Take what works for your team and your workplace and run with it. Though we’re all dealing with our own challenges, fostering a healthy work environment and bonding with your staff are all simple ways businesses can do their part to help employees get through the cyclone of crazy that is the year 2020. The best way to face the stress and challenges ahead of us is as a united front. Finding ways to support and uplift each other is crucial to keeping your staff mentally and emotionally prepared to take on the day.
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