We can all agree that the past month has been tough. The pandemic has unsurprisingly brought with it a great deal of pain, sadness, frustration, confusion, and a whole host of other negative emotions and experiences. Whether it’s our standard routines, our economic security, our friends and family, or just the ability to freely walk outside, we’ve all lost a great deal as part of this crisis. Everyone is grappling with new, uncomfortable, and often frightening circumstances, and it’s bound to take a toll on employees’ productivity.
While there are no easy solutions here, one simple way to help incrementally lighten the emotional burden on your team is to intentionally build positive moments into the work day. Studies have shown that people who watch a funny video clip before starting a task are 10% more productive than peers who did not watch the clip, so now is not the time to keep those cat videos to yourself. Many employees are struggling with a newly full house, upended schedules, the constant threat of illness, escalating cabin fever, etc.; creating opportunities for stress relief is essential. Accordingly, today we’re writing with some suggestions for helping your employees stay sane and engaged during these highly destabilizing times.
As we’ve noted in prior posts, one of the most important steps you can take to support employees right now is to encourage connection during check-ins and other meetings. Going one step further, providing opportunities for laughter can be transformative for your team members staring down another month or more of social distancing. While casual conversation will not be appropriate for every call, making time to share funny stories from people’s quarantine chaos can not only help your team blow off some steam, but will also help bring them closer together. Finding common ground and cultivating understanding is one of the most significant gifts we can give to each other today (and every day). Amidst the strain of ‘normal’ life under these new restrictions, the brief respite of just chatting with colleagues can be a critical line of defense against burnout.
If you want to expand the conversation outside of meetings, consider using your company’s communication channels to launch a daily or weekly question to get employees chatting. It could be as straightforward as joining the twitter trend of sharing pictures of your new ‘coworkers’ (i.e. pets, kids, plants, etc.), or something more related to your business such as strangest customer stories, most interesting place you’ve visited while wearing company swag, etc. Even simply prompting employees to share the books they’re reading and TV shows they’re watching to pass the time can help brighten people’s days and improve their mental health.
Another way to approach this task is to plan events for employees. While we know that virtual events are not ideal, continuing to plan programming for your team and even for their families remains critically important to boost flagging morale. Some companies have organized times for employees’ children to read to each other. Others are planning virtual coffee breaks and/or happy hours. You could even schedule yoga, cooking, strength training, or other well-being sessions for your employees to join. Building in these opportunities for positivity will not only help your team members focus during work hours, but will make them happier all around during this difficult time.
Yet another way to surprise and delight employees is with gifts and food. While not the easiest to orchestrate with many stores closed down and deliveries slowed, assembling care packages or ordering food to be delivered to your employees can create much-needed bright spots amidst the monotony of staying home all the time. Some companies have arranged for their team members to receive pizza or baked goods, while others have created thoughtful gifts to distribute to make working at home a bit easier. These kits can include items such as headphones/headsets, hand sanitizer, ergonomic seat cushions, tea/coffee, mugs, snacks, etc. You could also offer free subscriptions for exercise classes, meditation apps, or similar services so employees can more easily build stress relief into their schedules.
There are many options to support employees during this crisis, but the best way to do so within your company is to ask your people what they need. While some may be too overwhelmed to know right now, just the fact that you checked in and showed that you’re available and open to listening to their requests will be a step in the right direction. As always, if there’s any way we can help, don’t hesitate to reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.