Supporting Employee Well-Being: Pandemic Edition

COVID-19 has taken an indisputably terrible toll on the world: More than 28 million people have been sickened with the disease, and more than 900,000 have died from it. From a mental-health perspective, the strain of quarantining and/or dramatically having to change lifestyles has cut across divisions of sex, race, socioeconomic status, and country.

In the U.S., some 40% of people now report struggling with mental health issues and substance abuse, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Suicidal ideation rates are up. Employees working from home are under increased stress. Particularly for Americans, already the most overworked population in the world, all of this spells significant trouble from a health standpoint. 

But there’s hope for employers wanting to head off any mental or physical health problems in their team members. Here, we discuss our top three tips for mitigating knowledge worker stress and boosting health during (and after) the coronavirus pandemic. 

Check-in

You may think you’re constantly getting a read on your employees’ well-being just by talking to them on a daily basis, but be sure not to confuse work discussions with talks about personal matters. 

“[D]on’t rely on people to self-report” about their health, an article on the Ernst & Young website reads, in part. “Two-way conversations are essential to building trust. It’s vital to monitor mental wellbeing with structured regular opportunities for employees to ‘check-in’ with managers and colleagues — and encourage peer support. Share techniques to stay calm, present, and focused.” 

Let employees know on a regular basis that they can and should feel comfortable taking time off not just for matters relating to physical health, but to mental health as well. 

And if your team is still working from home, suggest they cowork instead. Human beings are hardwired to do better when they’re around each other, and studies show workers are more productive in office-like settings than we are in isolation (read: at home). 

DC-area workers should check out Metro Offices’ many locations, amenities, and affordable membership plans. We’re taking numerous coronavirus-preventing precautions during these trying times, so you can rest easy.

Mandate breaks

It’s no secret that being sedentary is lousy for our health. Despite widespread knowledge, the majority of Americans fail to exercise regularly. All that sitting is bad for our organs, posture, and waistlines — and our mental states. 

“[J]ust like the rest of your body, your brain depends on good blood flow and glucose metabolism to work properly,” Linda Wasmer Andrews writes in a piece for Psychology Today. “A sedentary lifestyle increases the risk for glitches in brain functioning.”

Rather than simply encourage your employees to get some physical activity, though, mandate it. Set aside half an hour each day, either pre- or post-lunch, for company-wide exercise. There’s no need to dictate what sort of activity your people do; you can make highly ‘doable’ suggestions, such as yoga or brisk walking, but let each person choose what suits them best. And so that they take it seriously, let them know that no work is to be done — that means no emails sent or phone calls made, barring an emergency — during that time.

Get ‘Together’

Given how social humans are as a species, all this sheltering in place can be a shock to the system. Consider devoting the last 30 to 45 minutes of each Friday to a virtual happy hour, in which your team gets together via video chat for whatever refreshments they may have on-hand (it need not be alcoholic). Make it a rule that no work talk is allowed; the time is for discussion of home lives, hobbies, friends, and the like. Making this ‘interaction’ regular could go a long way in boosting the sagging morale of a distributed team.

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There’s no need to stay stuck working at home — or to spend a ton on a long-term, traditional office lease. Instead, try Metro Offices. Browse our locations here.

You might be interested in the following articles:

Workplace Wellness: A Post Pandemic Priority

Three Ways Employees and Employers Benefit from Remote Work

How to Reattach to Work Each Day

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