Provide Contact and a Ritual for Telecommuters



Q: All 15 employees I manage are working from home and we’re staying connected via email and other video conferencing tools. However, although the team has maintained productivity, they now seem serious, stressed and anxious. Our normally light-hearted banter is gone and I’m a bit worried about the mental health of some of my employees. Besides a reminder that EAP services are available what else can I do to support them?

A: It’s natural for people to be a bit more serious, stressed and anxious these days. After all we’re feeling stuck, worried about money, and scared by the news on TV. If you have kids, by now even the most adoring parents are probably tired of being around the whole family, all the time. Conversely, employees who live alone might be getting lonesome. In other words, there’s plenty of reason to be stressed and anxious.

So what can you do to help?

You can provide two things they need, even if they don’t know it: Social interaction and a daily ritual.

Social interaction

We are social animals and need human interaction. Although we don’t normally think of it this way, going to work every day is a largely social activity. You get to greet everyone, share a cup of coffee, listen to lame jokes, tell each other stories about kids, pets and weekend plans. Life in quarantine has deprived us of those interactions.

You can provide a semblance of that by adding a social component to one of your online meetings. For example, try going around the virtual table and asking about the weekend: does anyone have Netflix recommendations, how is everyone trying to exercise, and how they are coping with the new (temporary) normal? The purpose is purely social. It can be a quick 5 minutes of banter before getting to business, but it will give them the opportunity to share something fun, interesting or surprising. Knowing they’ll have a chance to talk each day and that it’s part of the daily ritual will ease the conversation, which brings me to the next item.

Having a daily ritual

One of the disorienting things about quarantine is that our usual schedule is no more.

The weekly staff meetings you had when you shared physical space are no longer adequate while working remotely. If you want to maintain high team cohesion and help everyone stay connected, I highly recommend you have a short but daily “huddle meeting” each day.  This daily meeting can serve as an anchor for the day, something on the schedule that everyone can count on.

Lastly, don’t forget your own mental health. It’s hard to be a good leader right now. Stay healthy and safe.


Originally posted on the HR Box blog.



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