It’s crazy to think about how the coronavirus pandemic has thrust the world into a global health crisis in just a few months. The social distancing measures put in place by governments all around the world have completely transformed the workplace – some industries have come to a complete standstill, unemployment is on the rise, and entire workforces have been (and will most likely continue to be) working from home for prolonged periods of time.
The impact of this on the workforce’s mental health shouldn’t be underestimated. In Hong Kong, a survey by the Mental Health Association of Hong Kong found that 87 per cent of workers suffered from work-induced stress during Covid-19. The top three sources of stress were personal health, concerns about income or employment, and worrying about the Covid-19 pandemic.
A similar study conducted by the National University Health System's Mind Science Centre in Singapore reported that 61 per cent of employees working from home reported feeling stressed.
As much as people talk about the practical aspects of managing remote workers and maintaining productivity, we should acknowledge the psychological impact of working from home for long periods of time and put measures in place to support employees and help them better cope with the situation.
Here are our top five tips for managers about how they can support their team's mental and physical wellbeing even while working remotely.
Tips for Boosting Your Remote Team’s Morale
1. Communicate regularly and with transparency
Effective communication is an essential tool for any manager. It is important that you share relevant information from reputable resources in a timely manner and routinely keep your team abreast of new updates, steps taken by the company and how this might impact employees. Even if you're unsure about what’s happening, be transparent. At the very least, create an environment where you and your teams feel safe to openly share thoughts and concerns.
If there is someone on your team who you feel could be struggling, arrange regular catch-ups and work with them to ensure they aren’t overwhelmed by a big workload or unreasonable deadlines.
2. Set boundaries
Communicate with your team to set boundaries on work hours to ensure they are able to maintain a positive work-life balance during this time.
Here are a few steps you can consider:
Suggest that employees set reminders on their phone or laptop for when they take a lunch break or finish work.
If work allows, remind employees that they don’t need to reply in real-time outside of their work hours, and offer the option for employees to turn off work notifications so they can fully ‘switch off’ and recharge in their downtime.
Lead by example! If you’re not too shy, share some photos of yourself when you’re taking a break. It can be a quick snap of the meal you’re cooking or a new book you’re reading to show your team that it’s okay to look after your own well-being.
3. Prioritize meaningful work
At a time where everyone is already sensitive to stress, managers should work with each employee to individually evaluate their to-do list, determine which tasks are essential and identify any work which can be discarded or put aside for a later date. Not only could this help to reduce stress, but it can also help to boost productivity and give employees a sense of purpose.
The ‘Getting Things Done’ system, or GTD for short, by productivity consultant David Allen, is a great resource to consider if you’re unsure about how to help your team members prioritize their workload. Here are the five simple steps GTD recommends to get things done without any additional stress:
a) Capture: Write down everything on your to-do list. No task is too big or small!
b) Clarify: Go through everything you’ve captured and sort into actionable and non-actionable tasks. If actionable, list out the next action and its deadline. If not, decide if it can be scrapped, referenced, or put on hold for when you have more time.
c) Organize: Process your workload – add deadlines or reminders to your calendar, file away reference materials in specific folders, make sure everything is set up so you have less hassle down the line.
d) Reflect: Regularly review and update your to-do list to ensure it remains relevant and effective.
e) Engage: Get to work on your actionable tasks!
4. Keep the fun alive with virtual team-building activities
Humans are social animals by nature. While some people may enjoy the solitude of working from home and communicating exclusively via Slack, it’s probably safe to say that the majority of people are experiencing a certain degree of loneliness. With the plethora of video conferencing tools available, why not arrange weekly or biweekly team get-togethers on Zoom where the whole team can socialize with each other and have some fun.
Team-building can also promote camaraderie within the team, foster a sense of community and increase employee engagement. If you need some inspiration, here’s our list of team-building activities your remote team will love!
5. Be flexible
During this period, some employees might need to take care of their children or other family members, some might be struggling with mental health. It’s important to recognize that individual circumstances vary for everyone and work with your team to make sure they feel supported. When creating a work plan, be transparent when negotiating deadlines, regularly review the plan to ensure it’s achievable, and be prepared to adjust your own expectations if employees who were previously high performers start to fall behind on work.
Consider making flexi-work an option. Parents might prefer to work outside of traditional office hours so they can focus on looking after their children in the daytime. In some circumstances where an employee’s workspace set-up at home disrupts their work (i.e. Due to internet problems or interruptions from children), some companies may even want to consider providing an allowance for a childcare helper or an allowance for said employee to work from a nearby coworking space.
If you’re in Hong Kong or Singapore, try using the BOOQED app to help employees instantly book a coworking space near their home so they can still have a quiet, well-equipped space to focus on work and avoid a long commute to the office.