In January 2020 the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the outbreak of COVID-19, to be a Public Health Emergency of International Concern.  In March 2020, WHO made the assessment that COVID-19 can be characterized as a pandemic.

There is more than enough literature available on protecting oneself and others being infected, i.e. Wearing a mask, Social distancing, washing hands with soap, use of sanitizer etc., however, little is said about the mental anguish and stress factor that can lead to paranoia and depression. This crisis is no doubt causing widespread stress and Paranoia globally (largely thanks to social media!).

During this pandemic more of us will be working from home (WFH). While Employers have a duty to take reasonable care of staff health and safety, Employees are expected to take primary responsibility for ensuring safe working conditions in their home. To ensure that critical work continues, Employees may be asked to work on different duties outside of their current role.

It is important that you keep in touch and in regular contact with your Manager and those you manage, whilst WFH. It also calls for undertaking your day to day work activity off-site, given the exceptional circumstances. Regular contact will help manage workloads and also support staff wellbeing and mental health. Managers must consider ways to safeguarding mental wellbeing for effectiveness and productivity.

Contingency planning is vital. If a line Manager becomes ill, Employees must know who else they can liaise with; a different Manager, or another appropriate member of staff. Moving to a WFH model means that it is now more important than ever, to keep in touch with colleagues and to foster teamwork as well as inter-team comradery as part of the wider office network.

Managers have an important role to play including assessing the frequency and type of contact required, while WFH – over and above the normal meetings. Try not to rely too much on email (you can say a quick “hello” or “are you free” nudge through maybe Teams or Skype). This is the remote equivalent of dropping by a colleague’s desk or office to say ‘do you have five minutes?’ Sometimes a question can be asked and answered in the exchange of a few quick messages, while at other times it seems to lead quickly and naturally to an agreement to ‘have a quick chat’ using video or audio.

One key success factor for home working arrangements is to build trust. Staff must discuss and agree with their Manager, work priorities and how these will be reviewed during an extended period of WFH.

Work may not flow as usual so this could be a good time to complete, for example, any outstanding mandatory training, archiving, review policies and practice, and update template documents.

As a Supervisor/Manager of a team WFH, you should consider the following:

  • How you will replicate the social aspects of work such as informal chat
  • Access to related technology and knowhow (MS Teams/Skype/ Google Meet, etc)
  • Online resources, training webinars, etc.

Supporting your team Supervisors/ Managers and employees, who are likely to have to try harder to foster these connections, than they would, if they were based in the same workplace. Cloud technology such as shared drives and workspaces can be used to update and review progress and at the same time achieve transparency. Such regular and planned interractions can help employees overcome any feelings of isolation as well.

When WFH for any length of time, seeing a friendly smile from a colleague can make a big difference to your day. All of these will help reduce frustrations and stress among employees, which is a pre-requisite towards their mental health and wellbeing!