The current health crisis not only has interfered with business travel, but it’s also shaken up office life. Quarantine measures are forcing entire workforces to perform their work duties from home, often with little preparation or direction. Such an abrupt disruption to daily routines can cause stress and anxiety. As days of social distancing turn into weeks, the resulting isolation can wear on employees’ psyches, without many even noticing.
It is during such times when company leaders need to step in and step up to demonstrate their ability to protect and look after the people who make the business move forward. Not only is this an essential duty of care component, but when an organization prioritizes the well-being of its workforce, employees feel supported and that their company has their back, naturally reinforcing their commitment and loyalty.
With that in mind, let’s explore some ways you can help employees keep their health and head space up during this stressful situation.
Foster connections among co-workers
When in the office, their co-workers are the people they spend the most waking hours with. Now working from home, employees are missing even brief exchanges shared during an elevator ride or cubicle stop.
To ensure remote workers do not feel disconnected and detached from the company and each other, leaders should focus on ways employees can bond as a remote community, which can help to alleviate their stress and fears. Whether through a series of one-on-ones or a larger group conference call, managers should schedule regular check-ins with their teams, helping to create a sense of routine many are craving now.
Video conferencing technology has been a wonderful tool for combatting the isolation and stress remote workers may be feeling. In many ways, these video calls can create even tighter relationships among teammates, helping them to learn more about their families and personal spaces.
Some companies have turned such calls into social gatherings, organizing virtual coffee breaks and happy hours so colleagues can connect on a personal level. Giving employees time to foster this camaraderie and support online can help to build stronger in-person connections when everyone is given the green light to report back to the office.
Provide mental and emotional support
The current crisis may be what everyone is talking about, but it can be uncomfortable for employees to acknowledge the personal struggles they’re having. During such times, company leaders should recognize the stress and anxiety employees may be experiencing and make them feel safe coming to managers with their concerns.
To help employees hesitant to admit they’re suffering emotionally, HR leaders can promote the telemental health services their insurance provider offers so people can get support anonymously.
Employees rely on managers for cues on how to respond during difficult times, and this is another opportunity to demonstrate your leadership qualities. It’s a fine balance between acknowledging the challenges employees may be facing while tactfully “rallying the troops” and voicing a confidence in their ability to get through this together as a unified team.
Be flexible with employees during this unusual situation
As workers adjust to their new remote working life, company leaders should be sensitive to the difficulties of working from home under these circumstances, where many distractions can make it hard for people to concentrate. Companies should aim for a balance between setting goals that help employees stay focused and productive while understanding the unique challenges this situation presents.
Partners are figuring out new boundaries while working under the same roof. Parents are getting disrupted responding to emails as kids who normally would be in school or daycare vie for their attention. Even thinking about dinner can become a distraction when a grocery run keeps getting pushed.
At the same time, some remote workers may find it hard to mentally “log off” for the day with their personal and professional lives blurring together in one space. Managers can help prevent burnout by reminding employees of the importance of work-life separation and encouraging them to set hours when they do not work or respond to emails.
Promote physical health too
Working from home can take a toll on the body. Hours sitting in front of the computer can cause eye strain and body aches. With the “restroom” and “cafeteria” now next to their office, employees lose opportunities to move and stretch their legs.
There is also the potential to slip into bad habits to cope with stress, such as emotional eating and spending hours numbing out in front of the TV. To combat this unhealthy trend, the company’s HR department may wish to send useful tips on how to stay healthy when in quarantine mode, such as stretches to do at a desk, exercises they can do indoors, and ways to boost their mindset. Managers also may want to encourage employees to take a 10-minute meditation break or go for a walking meeting. With so many exercise classes going virtual, perhaps there’s even an opportunity to work out together as a team.
Apply the best lessons to your travel program
In many ways, there is an overlap between supporting the well-being of remote employees and the well-being of traveling employees. In both cases, companies need to demonstrate their ability to care for people from a distance to help prevent burnout and illness. Like remote workers, business travelers are susceptible to feelings of isolation and an inability to maintain a healthy work-life balance.
So as you discover in the weeks ahead what’s effective in helping to maintain employee well-being from afar, keep in mind that some of the same techniques may carry over well to your travel program.
Of course, we have lots more to say on that topic, but now’s not the time. As we emerge from this crisis and employees are heading back to the office and hitting the road again, let’s connect and discuss how we can help with your traveler wellness goals.
Click here to view the Duty of Care: Travel Management 101 e-book.