This article was originally published on CultureFirst.com as part of the "Working Through It" series
The impact of COVID-19 has proven to be rapid and far-reaching. Whether we’re affected directly by the virus, or indirectly by its implications, we’re all discovering that this new reality doesn’t respect the traditional boundaries of work and life.
Our health and wellbeing often fall by the wayside during highly stressful times. This has only been compounded by the intensity of this global crisis, which has kept many of us abruptly trapped at home, facing the full spectrum of solitude, distraction, and uncertainty. As a result, it’s more important now than ever to prioritize our wellbeing.
Research has proven the impact of wellbeing on productivity and morale at work, and in the face of a pandemic, this becomes even more important. But it’s not just the physical health that matters – because wellbeing goes beyond exercise and healthcare.
Companies have the power and the responsibility to support their workers with holistic wellbeing resources during these uncertain times. If you run an organization or manage a team, consider how to help your team prioritize their physical, mental, caretaker, and financial health.
Wellbeing in times of crisis
During a crisis, typical day-to-day stressors take on a new intensity. We’re more vulnerable than ever as we navigate overwhelming feelings of grief, distraction, confinement, loneliness, and sickness.
For those in our teams worrying about helping their children with online classes, delivering groceries to elderly relatives, job security, or simply adjusting to a new way of life, it can feel impossible to focus on work. Leaders who want to see their team members and their organizations come out on top must adjust expectations around productivity, availability, and work-life balance.
Wellbeing from home
The intensity of a worldwide pandemic is enough to hinder regular productivity, but being confined to the same space for an extended period has implications of its own. Quarantine disrupts the normal routine and forces us to adapt our living space into an all-purpose office, gym, and daycare.
In the confines of this limited environment, opportunities for working out, mindfulness, and social activities seem to disappear. However, it is more important than ever to prioritize health and wellbeing during a crisis. Organizations play an instrumental role in providing solutions to help mitigate employee grief and burnout.
Wellbeing tips during COVID-19
The benefits of wellbeing at work are proven from increased morale and productivity to decreased cost of turnover, absenteeism, and healthcare expenses. With budgets tighter than ever and a sudden switch to remote work, organizations need to find creative ways to listen to our team’s concerns and prioritize wellbeing initiatives. Consider the following ways to support your people:
The stress from a crisis can cause various health and sleep problems, which easily compound at this time when going to the doctor means risking exposure to COVID-19. Confinement presents hurdles to regular activities, such as exercise and rest. Physical activity has a proven impact on wellbeing. Here are some options that will help encourage a less sedentary isolation lifestyle:
Highlight existing health benefits
Benefits plans are chocked full of resources that are often overlooked. From telehealth to employee assistance programs (EAP), your existing plan likely offers resources that your team is already looking for. Take time to revisit your plan and resurface helpful resources for employees.
Amplify individual interests
Encouraging employees to bring their passions to work is a great opportunity to nourish these interests and support your entire workforce. Prompt your people to lead virtual group exercise classes, cooking tutorials, art sessions, or even simple knowledge sharing around unique skills.
Invest in fitness programs
If there’s a little budget, it may be worth investing in fitness partnerships. Whether it’s company-sponsored digital yoga or a corporate membership with fitness providers, there are several affordable ways to provide your team with the tools to prioritize physical wellbeing.
In times of crisis, individuals are vulnerable to a range of emotional factors. Extreme situations can cause depression, anxiety, grief, and stress to bubble up until they overflow. Without the typical coping mechanisms available, it’s crucial to identify ways to deal with these intense emotions.
Train managers to support emotional wellbeing
Emotional intelligence is more important than ever during this time, and leaders who ignore the personal challenges of the individuals on their team take a significant, irresponsible risk. Provide training sessions to help managers improve their ability to support team members under stress.
Establish new work norms
This new way of work requires new norms. Facilitate new ways for peers to connect through daily check-ins or weekly lunch calls. Adjust expectations around “normal” work styles and communication habits. Consider encouraging team members to remove work applications from their personal devices to better navigate work-life balance in a work-from-home environment.
Invest in mental health resources
Many mental health services offer corporate sponsorship packages. If there is the budget available, this is an ideal time to offer virtual therapy or meditation application memberships. This investment demonstrates that your organization encourages your team to take time out of the day to recenter.
While many people are grappling with loneliness, others are tasked with full-time caretaking responsibilities. With everyone at home together, the barriers between caretaking and work have vanished. Caretakers now have to juggle responsibilities and find ways to split their time.
Everyone is affected by this pandemic, and empathy and humanity are more important than ever. The formalities of business are no longer sustainable in times of crisis. Encourage flexibility and respect the time your people need to take to support their families.
Provide information and resources
Create caretaker resource groups and share online resources for team members with dependents. Encourage them to block off times on their calendar when they need to be focused on their family and be understanding when they need to move things around.
Every day brings news on the economic impact of the pandemic. Large companies face mass layoffs, small businesses are forced to close up shop, and hourly workers are put on standby until further notice. The stress and fear of employment uncertainty can cause a ripple effect throughout all other areas of wellbeing when left unattended.
Provide financial resources
Use internal finance expertise, employee assistance programs, and online resources to help your people regain control and security during uncertain financial times.
Support remote work setup
With the new remote work measures, a little goes a long way. Budget permitting, consider offering a stipend for home office equipment. A new chair or second monitor could help increase productivity and reduce financial stress.
You’re not alone
The effects of COVID-19 are industry agnostic. Regardless of company industry, size, or location, people in countless organizations struggle to navigate these uncertain times and the emotional tsunami that comes with them.
Organizations will ultimately fail if they can’t support employee wellbeing during this crisis. But by supporting holistic health and wellbeing, we can take care of our people and see both short-term and long-term benefits to our productivity. It doesn’t have to be costly or time-consuming, but everything counts as we navigate these times together.