Lockdown 2.0. You’d think we’d be used to working from home by now; spending more time indoors, less of a commute (unless you live in a really big house, of course), and generally being trusted to work on our own initiative.

However, with lockdown comes isolation. As an introvert, you’d think sitting on my own tapping away at my laptop would suit me down to the ground. But even I get a buzz from spending time with other people – chats by the kettle, lunchtimes sat with friends, and the general office chit-chat. If you’re not in a job that requires constant Zoom meetings and phone calls, working from home can be very lonely. If your partner is at work, your children at school, or if you just live alone anyway, going in to the office can be something you look forward to every day. And going through this whole process again can feel quite daunting.

Mental health rates are at their highest (and who would be surprised at that?!) and feeling more distant from friends and family can stop you from wanting to reach out for support or a chat about the weather/football/Made in Chelsea, let alone your emotions. Mental Health First Aiders can be a great asset to any organisation, and even more so now. If you haven’t got anyone trained up, give Mind a call – their course is amazing.

So what can we do to help support and reach out to everyone working at home?

  • Check in with your direct reports regularly – weekly would be great if you can
  • Organise birthday lunches or Friday night quizzes with your teams – this can be done over Zoom/Teams
  • Send out parcels in the post – these don’t have to be expensive. Just something to let people know you’re thinking of them, they’re part of your team still – make it fun!
  • Send out weekly newsletters – updates on what people have got going on within the business, fun news, birthdays/engagements/etc. Just because you can’t be together, it doesn’t mean you have to miss out on knowing all the goss
  • If you know of anyone in your team that is becoming more withdrawn, reach out. They might be avoiding Zoom calls or maybe they aren’t as active in the WhatsApp group anymore – just let them know you’re there

Of course there are then those who can’t work from home. This can be stressful too, thinking that everyone else in the entire world is sitting at home on the sofa watching This Morning with the occasional check-in on emails. Being a Key Worker in these times means that you are needed at work without any alternative. There is no possible way that this can change. Keeping these people motivated is extremely important too, so here are a few ideas to keep engagement high:

  • Make sure your managers are visible – a quick walk around a couple of times a day can really help boost morale
  • Provide treats – everyone loves a Quality Street! Or fruit, for a healthier option. It’s amazing how crazy people go for free stuff (having recently won 4 Mars bars, I know how they feel)
  • Saying “thank you” or “well done” can go a long way – people love feeling appreciated
  • Appreciate the physical and mental struggles – it’s an ever-changing situation with regards to family, health, school, childcare with everyone else seemingly working from home
  • Reassurance – firstly that you’re doing everything you can to keep employees safe, but also that they’re still doing a good job
  • If you’re lucky enough to have lots of work to be getting on with, it’s important to let people rest. They might be OK working 12 hours days, 6 days a week for now, but rest and recuperation will really help keep them going in the long-term

It’s safe to say that we’re working in extremely unprecedented times where everyone feels vulnerable. People are scared of getting ill, losing their jobs, not being able to pay the bills. As a business owner/manager it’s really important to keep the team around you happy and feeling like part of a team.

We can and we will get through this.