Whatever Covid-19’s impact on your sales, it’s not as great as the pandemic’s effects on employees’ wellbeing. Everything about how your team lives and works has changed.
For many employees, the workplace is now their home. Those who don’t have a decent workspace at home may be soldiering on at the office with dead plants, dark screens, and abandoned coffee cups.
Just ask them: They’re confused, stressed, and unsettled. And it’s causing them to engage in unhealthy behaviors that harm their productivity:
1. Screen Time Overload
These days, it’s part and parcel of most jobs to spend hours looking at a computer screen. Technology makes them more efficient. But too much of a good thing is, well, bad.
Not only are employees staring at spreadsheets and in Zoom calls, but they’re glued to the news. Many people are dealing with the uncertainty by constantly checking for updates.
Screen overuse is closely associated with headaches. Employees may be chewing pain medications, or seeking migraine treatment through virtual providers like Nurx.
Don’t let stress turn into physical pain for your team. Help them find ways to cut back on screen time, both in their personal and professional lives. Encourage them to disconnect Slack and email from their phone. Give them uninterrupted work time, especially on offline projects.
2. Fear of the Unknown
There are still a lot of unknowns around Covid-19. And frankly, unknowns are scary.
A few months ago, you told employees to pack up, go home, and stay there. If you’re asking them to return to the office now, they may be worried about the transition.
If so, give employees some certainty. Be clear about the timeline, and leave out protective equipment like masks and hand sanitizer.
There are ways to go back to the office safely. Move desks at least six feet apart. Circulate indoor air more effectively, mandate masks, and disinfect surfaces routinely.
Be flexible with employees who might be uncomfortable with returning to the office. Perhaps they have other health issues. Realize that they may have vulnerable kids, partners, or older relatives living with or depending on them. Be upfront about employee infections and contact tracing efforts.
Employees who live alone and work remotely can feel incredibly isolated. They can’t socialize with family, friends, or co-workers. Some feel literally trapped in their homes.
Humans are naturally social animals. Research has shown that loneliness leads to depression, anxiety, cognitive decline, and even cardiovascular issues.
A handful of hourlong Zoom meetings isn’t enough to fend off feelings of isolation. Employers can do more to keep remote employees connected by developing a culture of check-ins with managers and co-workers.
Many managers use employee check-ins to take the pulse of their employees. They discuss how they’re doing at their job, what their goals are, and how they feel about their progress.
Given the circumstances, touch base at least once a day. Ask about your team’s struggles — at work and at home. When in doubt, just listen and ask how you can help.
With the wider team, get creative with ways to engage employees: Maybe that’s taking time during staff meetings to talk about lighthearted, non-work topics. Maybe it’s virtual happy hours. Perhaps having a pizza delivered to each person’s house would help.
Have a book club, movie night, or social hour. On employees’ birthdays, order them a cake and sing happy birthday to them via Zoom.
4. Fear of Failure
Employees fear they’re going to fail every single day. They’re trying to be not just good workers, but also good parents and partners.
Everyday concerns can take a toll on their confidence. They worry about being judged for the appearance of their home office stuck in a corner of the kitchen. Or that their childless co-workers will judge them when their kids interrupt a Zoom meeting.
Older workers worry about being unable to figure out how to use remote-work technology. Younger ones wonder what the future of their career looks like. All of them worry about getting the virus, losing their jobs, and losing their minds.
This is not an exaggeration. Employees need financial and emotional assistance now more than ever.
Provide free access to meditation apps. Ask in one-on-ones whether they might need no-interest loans. Offer parents, in particular, reduced hours, hybrid schedules, or on-site childcare.
If there’s one sensation every member of your team likely feels right now, it’s exhausted. Stress has a way of making you feel like you just need to curl up in bed and shut the world away.
Brewing double-strength coffee is not the solution. Neither is putting throw pillows on the break room couches.
Again, the answer is flexibility. If a member of your team needs to sleep in until 10 a.m. one day, let them. They can always work an extra hour or two at the end of the day.
If you have the space, consider designating an in-office nap room. Beware that the stigma of nap rooms means people may not want to use them.
Ben & Jerry’s faced this when it put a sign-up sheet outside its nap room. Only when it made usage anonymous did employees actually start using the company’s rooms.
Too many workers, life seems downright unfair. Despite doing all the right things — staying in school, working hard, and taking care of others — their world feels like it’s falling apart.
Don’t wait until there’s an outburst at the office to address their frustrations. You may not be able to make the virus go away, but you can help in other ways.
Maybe everyone on the team deserves a staycation. Perhaps it’s time to hang a punching bag in the break room. Now, there’s a way to work off those extra calories from lunch.
When in doubt, ask your team. They may not outright tell you, “I’m upset at how my life is turning out,” but you’ll hear it in their voice.
The bottom line is, acting like life is “normal” right now is like putting a square peg in a round hole: It just won’t work.
Unprecedented times call for unprecedented measures. Unprecedented measures, however, yield unprecedented results.