Why Managing Employee Health is important while they are working from Home

By Rishikesh Kumar, Founder & CEO at Xtraliving

A time of fear and uncertainty has been compounded by a totally new routine – one where everyone should work from home. The corona virus pandemic has forced millions of employees across the globe to remote work. This will save lives by limiting the transmission of COVID-19.

What’s the need?

Corona virus has surely sent shockwaves through industry and economy alike, but its real impact has been on employees working all around. Organizations should understand it is crucial and should realise that this is an unprecedented situation – one for which not all employees will be well suited. Some employees will originally have thrived working from home, but the key difference here is that it has now become ‘mandatory’, forcing people into ways of working that may not be natural for them. In such a situation, leaders and HRs of companies are key in making this adjustment as minimal as possible. As a leader, you too may be struggling, and it is imperative that you both look after yourself, and be open about the reality of the situation for you. Role modelling healthy behaviours, having a positive outlook, and sharing how you are feeling can all help. Business leaders must be open to being vulnerable. Also, one must remember that caring for employee health is a shared responsibility – employers, managers, and employees themselves all play a part.

So how should business leaders be looking after employees during the coronavirus outbreak? And how can they prioritise their mental health and well-being? Let’s have a look-

Promote open Communication

Regular, open and clear communication is key. With so much uncertainty, it falls to managers and HRs to be the calm voice of reason and reassure employees, remembering that how you communicate is just as important as what you communicate. Leaders have an essential role in ensuring communications are concise, unambiguous and timely to answer these questions for different teams and employees in the organization: What’s changing? Why? What does it mean for me?” Communication must be calm and transparent about actions and realistic timelines.

Encourage and host virtual social time

Loneliness is one of the most common complaints about work from home, with employees missing the informal social interaction of an office setting. It is thought that extraverts may suffer from isolation more in the short run, particularly if they do not have opportunities to connect with others in their remote-work environment. However, if being held for too long, isolation can cause any employee to feel less “belonging” to their organization. At such time, HRs should be little more engaging with organizing various fun activities like virtual pub quizzes and conference call coffee breaks. This could mean setting up one-on-ones, small team chats, or involving the whole organisation, just make sure it becomes part of the weekly routine. Also, managers could continue to mark birthdays or other milestones with video conference calls and other methods. It is not only the best way to combat loneliness but also according to research, having such reciprocal, supportive interactions with work colleagues is directly linked to employee’s well-being.

Listen- It’s important

This is a calamitous time, and employees are under tremendous stress, both physically and mentally. Moreover, employees, on the other hand, can also struggle with reduced access to managerial support and communication. Supporting workers going through mental stress is not only an ethical obligation for employers, it’s also a bottom-line issue. Therefore, It is important to acknowledge stress, listen to employees’ anxieties and concerns, and empathize with their struggles. Let the employee’s stress or concerns (rather than your own) be the focus of this conversation.

Encourage self-care among the employees

Leaders should additionally encourage self-care among their employees, who mentally are trying to adapt to work from home, the stress of new environments and the stress of daily updates around COVID-19. Managers should advocate employees to exercise, get quality sleep, take showers, and continue on with lives as normally as they can. Also, they should provide more open and honest communication, empowering their employees, and removing roadblocks, and can help make this stressful time less overwhelming.

Personal healthcare

The time is challenging, but employees also take care of their own health. The plenty of alluring snacks in the kitchen, the scarcity of social stimulation and the temptation to work in an ergonomically unsound position, like in bed, can all sabotage an otherwise virtuous worker’s best health intentions. Therefore employees themselves should keep up the good practises, stay hydrated, get some exercise and fresh air, do yoga or mediation eat healthfully, and avoid too much alcohol or sugar. Taking care of yourself is a priority.

Beyond these actions, managers should be virtually, if not physically, available and present for their employees. Indeed, we know that social support can help people cope with stress, so social distancing needs to be more about physical separation than social or psychological isolation as we deal with this pandemic.

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