As many Australians navigate yet another stint in lockdown with no tangible end in sight, the toll it has on mental health and wellbeing can’t be underestimated. No one is entirely immune from the social, health and financial impacts – from families straining to juggle home-schooling along with their regular jobs; single dwellers feeling isolated unable to connect with friends or family; and vulnerable groups, for whom the impacts of the pandemic and this lockdown are most greatly felt.
Not everyone will experience the same degree of anxiety, loneliness, isolation, and stress associated with lockdown. There’s another feeling that I learned of in a recent article published in The New York Times. They gave a specific term to that “Blah” feeling that sits between depression and flourishing. It’s called “languishing”. Languishing can feel different for everyone – perhaps it’s reduced motivation, or difficulty maintaining focus. You might feel a ‘dulling of delight’, ‘dwindling of drive’, ‘slipping into solitude’, or ‘indifference to your indifference’*. Even if you’re not languishing – you probably know people who are.
During this time, where morale and motivation can ebb and flow, here are some suggestions on how you as an employer, can continue to maintain employee engagement, and promote a sense of belonging and community for your staff across your business.
1. Lead with compassion
As a business leader, it’s important to stay visible and approachable to your employees. Focus on how you can make a positive difference in people’s lives by demonstrating awareness, honesty, vulnerability and empathy. Look at ways to connect with your employees. Perhaps this could be in the form of short video messages recorded from home. Yes, there will be an overarching business message, but put a personal touch on it. Your employees will appreciate it. Deliver these messages regularly, and not just as a one-off.
2. Show appreciation and gratitude
Take the time to reflect on what you are grateful for. Reinforce how valuable your employees are to you and your business. Don’t forget to recognise individual contribution, and how much you appreciate what they bring to your business.
3. Stay connected with regular check ins
Encourage line managers to have regular dialogues with their team in 1:1s or team meetings. Simple questions like “How are you feeling?”, “How are things outside of work?”, “How can I support you better so you can perform at your best?” can foster an environment where employees feel safe to open up and speak candidly about their experiences and feelings. Also encourage employees to regularly check in with their colleagues and peers to talk about their wellbeing. Virtual coffee catch ups are a great idea.
4. Promote time for recovery and relaxation
Working virtually can be extremely draining. There’s more time spent in front of a computer, and with the added joy of home-schooling for some, it’s hard to maintain positive energy throughout the workday.
- Encourage breaks away from the computer;
- Set some guidelines around meetings and protocols eg: no meetings at lunchtime, avoid back to back meetings;
- Encourage walking meetings where possible;
- No emails after close of business.
- Encourage employees to give themselves uninterrupted time to complete tasks, whether they be work, or reading a chapter of a book, connecting with family or friends (remotely of course!).
5. Find opportunities for teamwork and collaboration
It’s important for engagement that people feel part of a group. Through working with others, this can increase a sense of purpose and belonging, which have huge positive impacts on wellbeing and engagement.
Can you create a network of teams to promote collaboration across the business?
Do you have the technology in place to enable virtual meetings?
6. Celebrate successes
Success doesn’t always have to come in the form of hitting your sales targets, or achieving your KPIs. In what has been a tumultuous time, success can look quite different. There could be examples of team spirit and resilience. Or perhaps there were instances of “out of the box” thinking, innovation or creativity that made a difference. Most importantly, don’t forget to savour and celebrate small things. It’s not just the big occasions that are worthy of merit, small moments are also important.
Making employee engagement a priority, especially during times of crisis, can help your employees “flourish”, reduce that “blah” feeling, and improve their wellbeing by giving them a strong sense of meaning, belonging and connectedness.
Nick Hedges is the founder of Resolve HR, a Sydney-based HR consultancy specialising in providing workplace advice to managers and business owners. He recently published his first book, “Is Your Team Failing or Kicking Goals – Take control of your people and their performance”. It is a practical response to the most pressing HR challenges which can be found at www.resolvehr.com.au
Disclaimer: The contents do not constitute legal advice, are not intended to be a substitute for legal advice and should not be relied upon as such.