Why it’s okay to find WFH during a global pandemic tough. Here’s some things that might help

Jun, 2020

Supporting your teams whilst WFH. Oh yeah, and in the middle of a global pandemic.

It’s the last week of April 2020, which means we’re in approximately week 768 of home isolation here in the UK, and it’s probably a Monday. Or maybe it’s Tuesday...

Banana bread has been baked. And shared on social. And baked again. You've debated every single hypothesis of if, where and how Carole Baskin fed her husband to a tiger, and contemplated shifting your daily walk from pre work, to post work just to spice things up.

How most of us liked to pass our time at the start of the year looks a little different right now, and the same can be said for how millions of us are working from home now too.  

But, here’s the thing; this is no ordinary WFH situation. This isn’t a move reflective of a particular company’s culture, or a way of working negotiated with an employer to everyone’s benefit. This is a situation that has been put in place on an unprecedented scale and sees people trying to navigate their employment responsibilities during a global crisis.  

Personal concerns for family and friends (both those you live with, and those you don’t), are interwoven with worries on a wider societal level of health, safety and also the financial.  Coronavirus and all that comes with it is the backdrop to our working life right now, and we should remember that when putting any unnecessary pressure on ourselves when it comes to how to navigate our daily to-do list. These are unchartered times, and we need to be kind to ourselves, and those around us.

And when it comes to business owners, senior management and team leaders, the challenge of the current ways of working and living may feel further compounded as some tough business decisions are having to be made whilst also considering the wellbeing of a remote workforce at the same time.   

So with this in mind, we’ve pulled together a few thoughts on some simple check-ins that you could consider to help support you and your team’s wellbeing during this time. Especially now that - let’s be real - any novelty of working from bed, or conference calls in pjs, has well and truly worn off:

      1. How’s my communication right now?

Those knowing nods of recognition, or ongoing chat about a project across the desk help so much when it comes to teams feeling clear about what’s happening daily. Talking to each other is about more than just the points on an action list itself, so instead try and keep the virtual version of that going in a way that works for you and your people. Make sure that people understand what you’re working on each day, and what they’re expected to do.

It’s about regular check-ins (not checking up) as the day cracks on, so that there’s less room for confusion and uncertainty (there’s already enough of that in the world right now!). But think quality and not just quantity with these check-ins; don’t drag them on longer than they need to be for the sake of it, don’t invite extra attendees for no good reason and try to focus on the call in hand and look at the camera when you’re speaking and listening so the team feel your engagement in the conversation.  

Let’s also remember that language can be loaded, so be aware how you chat to your teams at a time when we’re all feeling a wee bit heightened. Our words can help spread positivity in times of uncertainty and fear - so be kind, be as transparent as you can, and be calm. 

And one final point on communication (it’s an important subject!); have you been clear about what resources or benefits your company still has available to those who might be looking for additional wellbeing support right now?  For example, your Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) if you have one, which can assist with personal and/or professional problems.  Or perhaps you have company gym memberships that still grants access to online classes?  You may also want to remind people of resources like ‘Every Mind Matters’, the national health platform from Public health England that has a whole load of resources, including those that are tailored to coronavirus

      2. Is our lack of socialising still social? 

Thanks to the wonders of technology, team catch-ups/drinks/quizzes and HIIT workouts can all take place remotely and keep people feeling connected and part of the company culture (and remember, this should include furloughed staff as well). We saw a whole load of people doing this in the first few weeks, and are really keen to see it continue. We totally appreciate the potential feeling of ‘Zoom fatigue’ is real and if one way of ‘socialising’ is starting to feel a bit tired, talk to your teams and agree to some new things to try to keep it interesting. Also, make it clear that people aren't expected to be on everything and there's no pressure for them to turn up to every online event that's scheduled. But the key is to keep stuff in the diary that gives everyone a chance to come together if they want to.

And don’t forget the ‘small stuff’ too; call your work husbands/wives to hear about their latest Netflix binge, or see if they want to have a quick chat while you make a cuppa.  Check in, and ask people how they are. 

      3. What else do my teams have on their plate?

When the coronavirus led to a mass shift of home working, many people initially reflected their company’s office hours, long-standing meetings etc in their remote hours. However, it might be worth finding out what else your team members are dealing with and think about how this can be accommodated to work for all. Does your catch-up still have to be at 9am, or does 9:30am actually work better for everyone at the moment? Vulnerable relatives, home-schooling or working in a house where others are unwell may mean that added flexibility is welcomed. And be prepared to keep this under review; as time goes on this is likely to change for some and being receptive to this will no doubt be appreciated. 

      4. Cut yourself some slack 

We know we mentioned this briefly up top, but we think it’s worth repeating. Whilst we may already be a few weeks deep, this current situation is a new way of working for everyone so it’s really important that even as a business owner, or team leader you give yourself the same breaks you should be encouraging in your teams.  We mean physically (step away from the screen every now and then, yeah?), but also mentally as you need to take care of your own wellbeing too.  If you try something and it doesn’t work out that’s okay - you can learn from it.  We’re all just trying to make our way through as best we can.


Stay safe and keep well. 



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