By Cara de Lange, burnout expert, speaker, founder & author, Softer Success
In a very short space of time, the Coronavirus crisis has changed the way we work. With most offices now closed, employees are navigating the ‘new normal’ of working from home. The anxiety and uncertainty around the pandemic is undoubtedly increasing stress and overwhelm. It’s important to ensure this doesn’t lead to burnout. The practicalities of working from home (while also juggling homeschooling) is a huge concern.
Having run virtual sessions in a variety of companies over the last few weeks, the main concern that comes up is ‘how do I balance it all’. People are worried about how to balance remote working with distractions or while having kids around. The answer is simply – it is not always possible. The key here is to educate your employees and offer them support while looking at being more flexible.
In order to equip staff to deal with workplace stress, high anxiety and overwhelm, it is crucial they are aware of how burnout can happen and the signs to look out for. Take note of the ethos ‘Knowledge is power’; the more you know about burnout, the better you are equipped to prevent it.
The World Health Organisation defines burnout as ‘chronic workplace stress that has not been properly managed’. Symptoms include feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion, feelings of negativity or cynicism related to one’s work and reduced professional efficacy. Keep an eye out for these signs in your employees.
Employers will need to be more flexible and employees will have to agree clear deadlines and set boundaries around technology. If there are connectivity issues or employees don’t have the right equipment at home, make sure you help them get set up. Managers are feeling the pressure more than ever before. Now is the time to create a safe space for your team to talk about how they are feeling or their mental health. Be authentic and lead with purpose. The World Health Organisation is asking us to ‘be kind and support one another during this crisis’. Show empathy and solidarity.
Before a meeting set some new rules including sending out pre-reads or pre-work so participants join with a more considered opinion. Leave more time for each activity to be carried out; discussions and decisions can take longer. Make sure you send an invite explaining the outline of the meeting. Ensure everyone is heard, be inclusive.
Dr Ranjan Chatterjee talks about the importance of releasing stress from the body. We hold stress in our bodies, so it is vitally important to release it, through physical exercise, breathing or just simply having a good laugh. Make sure you incorporate this in your day – every day.
With a few positive tweaks, it is possible for us all to learn to work from home productively and effectively while looking after our mental and physical health at the same time.
Here are a few tips on how to be more productive while working from home:
- Keep your daily routine and get dressed for work every day (mirror this if you have kids at home), make sure you have a schedule.
- Show your team you care – create a safe place for people to talk about their concerns.
- Make sure you take breaks every 90 mins. If you have a family at home, have lunch and dinner at the same time each day.
- Stay in touch and spend the first few minutes of any team meeting doing a round robin of how people are feeling.
- Create new traditions – does everyone in your team wear Green on Wednesdays or can you kick off each call with an energy check or deep breathing?
- Resist the email trap – voice messages and videos are much more personal.
- Pick up the phone more often – it is more important than ever that we stay in touch
- Set expectations and agree response times – in the office it is easier to SEE what people are working on so while working remotely agree a time and date and communicate if things change.
- Create a team fun hour such as a virtual cooking class or social hour.
- Get creative, what may have worked before is different now. Think of different ways to run a meeting or be in touch.
Release stress from the body with 2 minutes of deep breathing, exercise or having a good laugh.