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During the coronavirus pandemic which resulted in the compulsory closure of customer-facing businesses and workplaces, employees across the globe instructed staff to work from home following government guidance in an attempt to control the transmission of Covid-19. 

Due to the change in working style, businesses were forced to invest in equipment, IT infrastructure and open up access to innovative, communication software. Measures as such were required to ensure that operations continue to run seamlessly, writes Keith Tully of Real Business Rescue, Company Voluntary Arrangement (CVA), liquidation, and restructuring specialists.

Taking into consideration employees with different levels of technological proficiency, employers must provide software that is accessible for all to ensure business continuity. By assisting each branch of the business to stay connected, colleagues can maintain a level of normality, continue working effectively, and preserve relationships during the pandemic.

Putting Mental Wellbeing First

In addition to maintaining a strong work ethic, staying connected with colleagues during Covid-19 is essential for mental wellbeing. Transitioning from physically spending the majority of each weekday with colleagues to nil hours is a considerable change. By bridging the communication gap, this not only helps strengthen rapport but also safeguards mental health.

Using video platforms to communicate with staff can help provide a change in scenery, integrate a variety of conversations into your day, and separate home life from work life. Remaining in regular communication can mean healthier relationships, matched up thinking, and therefore, more effective working.

Working from home can mean easily merging social and professional life, resulting in priorities to cross over, which is why it’s vital to distinguish between the two and protect your mental health from reaching a tipping point.

As each employee is in the same position, they may be able to relate to your experiences, such as juggling childcare responsibilities, work-induced stress, and anxiety. Sharing this with colleagues may help cope with working life during Covid-19.

Recognizing Signs of Poor Mental Health

The working from home experience will vary for each individual why is why it’s vital to remain strong-minded and supported by the individuals around you, in addition to your family.

Statistics show that child abuse and domestic abuse are likely to soar while working from home, as for many it’s not a safe please, whereas, it’s a haven for some. Going from spending limited time with family members to an unlimited period can take a toll as it can be overwhelming.

As a colleague, you’re in the front line when it comes to direct contact with co-workers which means having more exposure to them. If you notice that the mental health of a co-worker is deteriorating, act proactively, and offer support.

Staying connected with colleagues during Covid-19

Dedicating Time to Physical Health

If you have a strong bond with your colleagues and you keep up with details of their personal lives, from celebrating milestones, exchanging weekend plans, and motivating each other to fulfill personal goals, working from home during Covid-19 may result in employee disconnect.

If you typically partake in corporate events, such as group sports, meetups for industry professionals, or general social catch-ups, the Covid-19 work from home initiative not only disrupts working life but also your social life and physical health.

Integrating smart communications into your working life can help bridge any gaps in contact, giving you the mental strength to work from home. If you have a strong rapport with your team, they will be instrumental in molding your thinking; motivating you, and supporting you emotionally which is why continuing this relationship virtually during the Covid-19 lockdown can prove resourceful.

Promoting Engagement in the Workplace

A proactive workplace has better chances of staying connected with colleagues during COVID-19 if they put in an active effort to communicate with staff by creatively sharing information through corporate communications or an intranet platform.

By sharing news of business activity, achievements, and PR placements, each staff member can feel connected and truly gauge the performance of the business.

During the coronavirus pandemic, workplaces have embraced the lockdown and established innovative ways to communicate with staff, such as hosting Instagram live training tutorials, YouTube workout sessions, and virtual tavern meetups.

A socially active workplace can also mean connecting with staff through social media to build a stronger bond and elevating the standard of working life. In addition to getting social, interacting with different people can help provide a fresh perspective and rebuild motivation.

Avoiding Working From Home Burnout

The work environment at your dedicated workplace is likely to be more formal due to the office setting, presence of senior staff, and enforcement of policies restricting what you can and can’t do.

If you’re working remotely or from home, the environment is likely to be more relaxed which may reduce the pressure or ramp up the determination to work harder, making you perform more efficiently and effectively. If you’re seeing higher levels of productivity, you may experience burnout more frequently, forcing you to contend with stress and feeling overwhelmed.

Burnout is the state of being mentally and physically exhausted which is more likely to occur when working from home during the coronavirus lockdown. In addition to fulfilling your role, working from home pressures may be harder to balance, such as household chores, childcare duties, household maintenance, home renovation, gardening, cooking, shopping, and self-care.

If you’re unsure if you’re experiencing work from home burnout, here are some of the signs:

Procrastination — If your work is piling up, but you’re constantly finding ways to avoid it by completing every other task other than your designated work, procrastination can leave you lagging with your workload. 

Putting off your to-do list can relieve the pressure momentarily, but result in backlash when arriving at the realization that you’re juggling an infinite amount of tasks within a restricted amount of time. Taking regular breaks for some fresh air, exercising your legs, and taking in some sunlight can help refocus your mind, pushing away any temptation to procrastinate. 

Exhaustion — If you’re biting your tongue when opening your laptop, sighing at tasks that would typically invigorate your creative talent, and limiting communications with team members as the thought of adding to your project list makes you wince, you may be battling exhaustion.

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If you’re suffering from burnout, it may be time to switch off from the working world, destress and re-energize. Starting afresh may help you realign focus and rebalance your itinerary in a way that doesn’t adversely impact your mental wellbeing. 

Differentiating between home and work — Separating work life from home life is likely to be a challenge as working from home means a lack of physical separation. Enforcing strict working hours, switching off from the outside world by setting your phone on do-not-disturb, and establishing a dedicated work setting can help create this distinction.

Learning to direct your focus to your work during working hours is essential and switching off when outside of working hours is just as vital. By balancing both, you can avoid burnout and stay focused on the job at hand.

It’s important to recognize that mental exhaustion can deteriorate your passion, so being steadfast in tackling burnout is just as important as keeping physical exhaustion at bay. The Covid-19 lockdown continues to affect entire workforces across the country, making your situation relatable to others.

Communicate with employees in similar circumstances as it may well be that they’re experiencing similar symptoms of work from home burnout. By confiding in each other, you’re able to minimize stress levels and help others while helping yourself.

Why Staying Connected Can Help Reduce Burnout

Overcoming feelings of distress can feel like a mammoth task due to the sudden transition to working from home. Staying in close contact with colleagues in the same boat can help you from entering a pessimistic state of mind and reduce the likelihood of experiencing these feelings on a long term basis.

By keeping your focus, socializing, and maintaining a strong presence of work-life, you can avoid falling into the habit of procrastination and therefore losing focus.

The way you interact with colleagues will be determined by the channels that you use, ease of access, and the provider. For example, if you’re using an in-house email facility, you’re expected to act with professionalism and use the proper pleasantries.

If you’re using an instant chat facility, the primary objective is to communicate in a fast fire tone, echoing informality. Using software that imitates reality to the closest extent can help bring normality to working from home during the pandemic.

Handpicking Communication Platforms for the Desired Output

Communication platform, Slack, has experienced a sharp spike in downloads since the coronavirus pandemic, leading them to launch a dedicated Covid-19 campaign to help support workplace communications during this period of social and economic uncertainty.

Slack CEO, Stewart Butterfield, shared data showing that Slack users grew from 10 million at the start of March 2020, reaching 12.5 million by the end of March 2020. This mirrors the same period in which European countries extended lockdown measures to enforce working from home.

The revenue for video conferencing software, Zoom, rocketed during Q1 when the World Health Organisation (WHO) declared the coronavirus outbreak a pandemic. When compared to last year, the figure is up 169 percent.

As workplaces adapt their systems for virtual delivery, Zoom has experienced speedy uptake by businesses across the globe as it provides a convincing alternative to face-to-face consultations with customers and allows you to easily host team meetings.

As social distancing appears to be a long-term, phased process until the notion disappears from society, video conferencing software makes staying connected with colleagues during COVID-19 easier. Packed with helpful features, such as green screen backgrounds to imitate a formal setting, this relieves the pressure of appearance when working from home or outside of a traditional office setting.

video conference during online meeting

Integration of Social Media Platforms

Branching out to colleagues outside of the workplace may feel out of place, however, the declaration of a pandemic has eliminated normality from the workplace, replacing it with flexible working on a large scale, innovative communications, and a greater focus on mental health.

The virus outbreak has led to co-workers sharing a sense of unity, speaking about the qualms of Covid-19 social life, and sharing their experiences throughout each phase of the economic recovery process.

Using social platforms, such as Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and Snapchat to connect with co-workers can help spot mutual interests. Working from home has given employees the headspace and focus to connect with colleagues on a personal level as the relationship is no longer restricted to the workplace.

This has involved children walking into Zoom meetings, partners chattering over team meetings, and witnessing significant changes to personal grooming due to the closure of salons and barbers. Working from home has helped break the ice between colleagues, creating an into conversations you typically wouldn’t venture into.

Maintaining Relationships Virtually and Remotely

As working from home removes a handful of pressures associated with a typical day at the office, this has resulted in the simplification of the working day. By working from home, it’s more disheartening to procrastinate or lose focus as it cuts out the personal time you could otherwise spend on hobbies, relaxing, or tending to household maintenance.

The first step is to arrive at the realization that staying connected with colleagues can help keep your mental wellbeing in check, reduce work-life burnout, and increase satisfaction and happiness. The next step is to actively make an effort to connect with colleagues, opening up the doors to a conversation, socializing, and discussing life outside of work.

The pandemic is likely to have created a welcomed break in the working lives of many but has also forced a gap in routines originally planned around mental health and physical wellbeing.

Daily commutes offer a change of scenery and the opportunity to be physically active on a routine basis; however, the pandemic has led to many jumbled routines for colleagues across the workplace. The key to making the change easier to process and digest is sharing experiences and taking refuge in colleagues.

Written By
Keith Tully is a partner at Scotland Debt Solutions, offering a range of debt solutions to residents in Scotland suffering from personal debt problems. This includes Sequestration, Trust Deeds and Debt Arrangement Schemes which our expert advisors can thoroughly advise you on over the phone through our free, confidential advice line or at one of our dedicated offices across Scotland.

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