It may be that you love running your business as much as the day you launched your company. But what about your team? Are their hearts singing as they get out of bed every day? Do they feel the same pride in their work as they used to? Is the pandemic and its restrictions getting to them? Can they work as effectively from home as they do in the shared workplace?
If the answer to any of those questions is no, you need to act now, and not when everyone is back in the main office and face-to-face again—because, by then, the damage will be done. Waiting to act means you risk losing them as a valued employee if they approach a more caring/understanding employer, or you may be forced to let them go if they/their work never recovers from the effects of these unprecedented times.
Treat your team like they’re family
The vast majority of business owners care about their staff; in small companies, members of the team can even feel like family members. Why wouldn’t you want to help your employees if they’re struggling to cope?
Providing support for staff members struggling with their mental health is not an extra cost but a valuable investment in your people. Such intervention can help the employee in question recover more quickly, which will improve their productivity more than simply ignoring the issue will.
Are they comfortable?
Ensuring your staff can each work effectively from their home is another consideration that you will ultimately benefit from. If they have their own little corner where they can sit on a proper office chair, with their equipment at the right height, etc. they will be able to work for longer than if they were sat against their bed’s headboard with their laptop on their knees.
Your legal responsibilities as an employer include an assessment of your employees’ workstations, etc., as well as their mental wellbeing when working at home.
If you have addressed all the above, occasional low moods felt by your team (if not stemming from issues in their personal life) may be superficial rather than serious wellbeing issues. Team morale can waver at the best of times, but maybe more so when you only see your boss and your colleagues over a computer screen.
Boosting morale is a common thing within companies of all sizes, though we’re quite sure that solutions to such problems are easier to implement when there isn’t a pandemic banning the opening of any leisure pursuit, hospitality venue, restaurants and pubs.
That said, there are still ways to gee up your team even if you can’t all come together in person…
Team coffee breaks
Though your team can’t chat around the water cooler like they can in the office, get everyone together on a regular basis for an informal Zoom chat, so that your employees have the chance to connect with people other than those they live with.
Though you’re the boss, it’s a good idea to occasionally allow them some time (within their working hours) to chat when you’re not around. A confidential sounding board, where they can offload the negatives about their role to colleagues who understand (rather than well-meaning family members who may not) can be incredibly cathartic.
Don’t see this as treason or a big deal—most people benefit from a quick moan to their workmates, then they can press on, unburdened, focusing on the bigger picture rather than the little niggles that everyone experiences.
Similar to the above, but without any mention of work whatsoever. Whilst not for everyone, virtual team quizzes or game nights have proved a success for some teams/companies and helped them to feel sociable. Some team members, if hired after the first lockdown, may not know their colleagues in any capacity other than work; occasions like these allow new colleagues to get to know the personalities of the people they’re virtually working alongside.
Whilst Zoom et al are wonderful tools to keep everyone connected when physical mixing isn’t allowed, they do encourage a sedentary lifestyle by keeping us all glued to our screens. Physical exercise is as important as mental wellbeing, and for some people, it’s an absolute lifeline.
Setting physical challenges or a special workout involving specific exercises can be one way to involve and motivate the whole team (they don’t have to exercise on screen or work out at the same time). The accountability may be enough to get even the least fit to move around more (though please don’t punish those that find exercise just another chore to cope with and who may want to opt out of any challenges; view it as a positive action only).
A scoreboard/time-keeper could further boost competitiveness and provide an avenue for incentivisation. At the very least, such challenges can provide a distraction, another focus, for team members than never-ending screen/paperwork.
Working alone in your home can sometimes feel monotonous and anything but creative. Ideas are often bounced around organically when everyone is in the same workspace. To stimulate inspiration and so that employees reconnect with the bigger picture/company vision when homeworking, arrange ad-hoc virtual creativity sessions. Build these sessions into your team’s working hours, rather than making them an extra responsibility—after all, you will benefit from the ideas generated.
Not only will these events provide valuable insight and interesting proposals, the mental break your team will get from thinking creatively, as opposed to focusing on practical/operational work, will be beneficial to their wellbeing…a change is as good as a rest, as they say.
This list is by no means exhaustive. No one is suggesting that a virtual coffee break or creative ideas session is anywhere as good as those held in person. Given that homeworking may become a
permanent factor in the way teams work even after the pandemic is under control and restrictions are lifted, such initiatives are definitely worth adopting across companies of all sizes.
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