“Dear all,

Given recent developments with COVID-19, we will all be working remotely for the foreseeable future…”

Sent or received this email lately?

For most traditional employers, the notion of every employee working from home is their worst nightmare.

Companies who claim to be open to “flexible working arrangements” are now having to prove themselves in what feels like an actual nightmare.

We all know that person who believes working from home means slacking off, sleeping in, spending the day in pajamas and pretending to work. But in today’s workforce, working from home can actually be the opposite. Often feeling guilty, employees who work from home often feel the need to overcompensate and essentially prove that they’re working. Some love the freedom, some give in to that extra packet of biscuits and some spend half of it screaming at their IT team. Don’t get me wrong, working from home in the short term is such a great option that can foster trust and positivity, but full-time working from home “for the foreseeable future” is something for which we need to prepare.

We don’t yet know how long this will play out, but we can all admit it really sucks. Socially, professionally, personally. A week into working from home, you’ve got a stiff back from the sofa/bed/laptop combination, you’re out of your normal routines and turning to your pets for social contact…

“I’ll be surprised if we all have jobs in a few weeks”

A comment which I’d normally laugh off is now a real possibility for so many of us, including me. Coronavirus is creating a new way of life for the global workforce and as businesses all over the world close, people are forced to stay home, which may feel harder for some than others. We need to unite in keeping everyone positive and healthy, and with these strategies, we may just be able to do that.

  1. Stay Connected

    We know staying connected with friends and family is always important, but studies have shown that interacting with people that we don’t really know also brings a sense of a larger community. Without that daily dose of social interaction from the workplace, companies and businesses need to make a real, genuine effort here to keep their teams feeling like they’re a part of something. Even when there’s little work.

    This could be done through a rotating roster of catch-ups where each employee is paired with another to check-in with the other, a group WhatsApp sharing photos of your remote workspaces or some other way of keeping in touch with each other. We particularly need to ensure that those who live alone or who typically struggle to put themselves out there (particularly when they’re not working) are at least having some interaction and laughter.
  2. Motivation Monday Meetings

    People will stay motivated to work if they feel appreciated, heard and trusted. For this to really work, leaders need to want to do this. Not a meeting that everyone puts on mute and vaguely listens to. A great way to start off is by acknowledging and praising staff for their achievements, individually. Recognise their efforts when they’ve been notable. These meetings should be less about company performance (and $$$$) and more about your “Why” as a group. Remind people why you’re doing what you’re doing, what we can all learn from this time and how we can innovate or change things that haven’t been working. But also, how they can focus on themselves as people and professionals.

    For example, show a TED talk or pose a question for everyone to think about to keep morale high. Even a 20-something Isaac Newton came up with gravity during the shut down of Cambridge. Yes, he pretty much always socially isolated himself, but still, we can try and see the bright side here. Get creative.
  3. Mental Health Practices & Practitioners

    If you’re awkward when talking about mental health, it’s time to get awkward. This is going to be really important for all of us if lockdowns continue and people face things like anxiety and depression, particularly with all of the uncertainty and potential for loved ones getting ill. These types of issues can also be triggered by isolation, burnout, lack of motivation, too much time to think, loss of hobbies… The list goes on.

    Reaching out to a health and wellbeing coach or offering REAL help to people is key. This doesn’t mean just sending a link to some tips for mindfulness. Real science and education will help people understand how their brains work, why they may be feeling the way they do and offering one-on-one help. Employees can also step in with useful ideas, things that have worked for them. Things like hypnotherapy, coaching, and psychotherapy are all really great ways to overcome issues permanently and boost overall performance. For both employees and leaders! Other options could be hosting group meditations or broadcasting a group yoga session together. There’s a lot of options here, but people definitely need to know help is available if they’re struggling.
  4. Invest in the Home Setup

    Another key area for innovation: tech. If we come out of the remote working phase with teams proving that they can work effectively, it may shift the entire way companies operate. We already know that the old-fashioned mentality of office “facetime” does not foster productivity – if anything it hinders it. Companies and businesses that invest in helping their teams set up at home may be the ones that really succeed. Not only does this build a greater sense of trust and ownership, but you’ll be resilient to whatever the hell 2020 has to throw at us even after the virus is gone.

If we implement these types of strategies, we could come out of this hibernation better than before. Creating teams that are more resilient, innovative and grateful for the small things. Toilet paper, for one.

Let’s boost those spirits and try and find the positive side. A Chinese proverb I recently heard illustrates exactly how we can see two sides to every situation.

A Chinese farmer gets a horse, which soon runs away. A neighbor says, “That’s bad news.” The farmer replies, “Good news, bad news, who can say?”

The horse comes back and brings another horse with him. Good news, you might say.
The farmer gives the second horse to his son, who rides it, then is thrown and badly breaks his leg.

“So sorry for your bad news,” says the concerned neighbor. “Good news, bad news, who can say?” the farmer replies.

In a week or so, the emperor’s men come and take every able-bodied young man to fight in a war. The farmer’s son is spared.

Good news, of course.

We don’t know what Coronavirus is teaching us but it could be good, could be bad – who can say?

We can.

Daina Hazel is a practicing lawyer and certified hypnotherapist and RTT therapist. More information can be found about her practice at www.dainahazel.com or follow her on Instagram at @dainahazel.wellness