Autumn is stunning, isn’t it? Blustery walks amid regal reds and golds; a polished conker slipped into a jacket pocket; the murmur of misty-breathed voices, as primal instincts draw communities to blazing bonfires.
It’s also blooming cold and dark.
Back in spring, a few voices dared to predict that life for us all would be somewhat back to normal by now (or whatever counted for ‘normal’, on an already chaotic planet, before Covid-19 entered the fray).
However a second wave now threatens to send an exhausted population into a deeper slump.
And this time, for those working remotely, the sunless cabin fever of a prospective autumn/winter lockdown – along with more economic uncertainty – will only intensify anxiety, especially for those who don’t fare well in isolation.
So what can you, as an employer, do to help?
A good first step will be to help your staff feel motivated in a season that (while undoubtedly beautiful) can often feel a bit gloomy.
Here are some employee engagement ideas to keep the fire burning in the cold, dark days ahead.
- Say thank you
For months now, we’ve been reacting to approximately one squillion new challenges in our day to day life. We’ve not just been working from home; we’ve been living in a pandemic, and working as much as we can among stressful situations that lots of people probably haven’t even wanted to talk about with their colleagues. A ‘thank you’ is easy – but if you mean it, it has huge emotional value. The recognition that balancing work with life has been tougher than ever, will help people to feel seen and acknowledged, even if they haven’t articulated their own personal challenges.
- Encourage one-to-one catch ups that aren’t about work
There are great benefits to working from home, but some important things do get lost: not least those casual conversations in the corridor, or impromptu team outings for a coffee and a chat. These are the kinds of activities that help to build trust, strengthen relationships, and are so important for good mental health. Empower your staff members to set up informal one-to-ones with each other within work hours, where work is not the focus. Perhaps they could have a video call, or a phone call, or even meet up for a walk or with a flask of coffee on a park bench. It’s so important that colleagues connect, and the positive effect it can have on working relationships is utterly invaluable.
- Remind your team of HR benefits
Business-as-usual has gone out the window, scarpered over the fields, and is now barely a dot on the horizon. We’re all a bit befuddled. Now is a good time to: encourage staff to take their holiday days before the year end; promote cycle to work schemes; share resources for training and learning, and wellness programmes; offer guidance on pension plans. As staff feel more physically disconnected from their workplaces, you can help them to still know that they’re part of a company that really wants them around, and wants them to enjoy being part of it.
- Become task oriented, not time oriented
This one requires trust – but hopefully after more than six months of home working, you and your team already have that! It involves trusting your staff members to achieve their prioritised tasks before deadlines, without worrying so much about them working their set hours every day. As long as tasks are being accomplished, allowances should be made for flexible working. An hour less in the office on one day due to family commitments can be picked up another day within the week.
- Encourage a morning and evening commute
Seriously, yep. But not the commute that involves bleary yawning in solid, smoggy traffic. Instead, if your staff members are working from home, you could suggest that they each schedule in a short walk before and after working hours. It will help to provide structure: delineating home life from work life; and the kitchen table from the work desk (if they are one and the same). Nobody should feel obligated of course – and personal family schedules may not allow for such a luxury as a morning walk. But if time allows, a routine can be reassuring for many people, and set them up for their working day while helping them to get their 10,000 steps in.
Wrap up warm, folks. And wash your hands after picking up conkers.
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