Joanna Salit MSW, RSW
|Posted on May 25, 2020 at 4:57 PM|
Workplace Wellness During COVID: Missing the Workplace Water Cooler
Unexpected is an Understatement
The sudden plunge into working from home was quick and unexpected. It required creativity and flexibility. We scrambled to figure out wifi strength, access to computers, and set up workspaces in corners of our homes. We learned quickly about platforms for communication, how to share files, how to structure our days to account for home schooling, grocery shopping, meal preparation, etc. We rose to the occasion to keep ourselves, our families and our communities safe, in order to flatten the curve. For those of us that managed to continue to work, we tell ourselves that we are grateful. Others are struggling more. But we still feel unsettled. There is an underlying threat of financial and workplace uncertainty. Colleagues were let go, some industries have shut down completely, some face the constant threat of cutbacks or no income … overnight. Unexpected is an understatement.
What is happening? Why are we feeling this way?
When a crisis happens, our nervous system goes into high alert; it is telling us that there is danger. Like other animals, we go into fight/flight or freeze in the face of threat. Our nervous system is trying to keep us safe. This reaction, though, channels energy away from our ability to focus, think clearly and plan. It can interfere with our ability to work as well as we used to. We may find ourselves shutting down emotionally, feeling foggy and/or feeling heightened and anxious.
People are home and people are struggling. And yet, we continue to put on our workplace ‘masks’ and pretend we are ok. We try to focus. We try to be productive. People are having a hard time. They are burning out. They are lonely in their empty homes. They are overwhelmed with toddlers climbing all over them. They worry that their teens are sneaking out to have contact with friends. There is little physical and temporal distinction between personal and work life. Then there is the overwhelming grief. The loss of the things that used to bring us joy and anticipation, the loss of human contact and touch, the worry about health and, for some, the deep grief about people that have passed away.
We tell ourselves that we are grateful for still being able to work. We tell ourselves that others have it harder and we ‘shouldn’t’ feel this way. But ‘holding things together’ is just getting to be too much. People are starting to crack. Trying to keep our professional mask securely fastened can feel like a daily struggle.
What can employers do?
Workers are facing COVID fatigue and it is wearing people down. Even though people are working from home, there continues to be a role for Workplace Wellness. These programs have been shown to improve morale, increase productivity, foster employee engagement, reduce stress, decrease absenteeism, improve employee retention and reduce the risk of health issues.
We are living through a period of prolonged stress and crisis. Employers know that people are at the core of their business and investing in the wellbeing of human resources is crucial, especially now.
The Virtual Water Cooler as a solution for your business
Introducing a Virtual Water Cooler for your organization can be helpful. Employees used to be able to connect informally with colleagues to share personal successes and difficulties. We no longer have access to the office break room. We are feeling its loss.
In addition to individual support, I facilitate groups for management and employee teams virtually during this period of COVID. Single session or ongoing virtual groups allow employees to connect and share perspectives on the changes they are noticing and the challenges they are facing. I then provide realistic achievable evidence based strategies to cope and improve wellbeing.
Programs such as these are effective at improving focus, mental clarity and productivity. They allow for people to increase resilience, as well as lessen the feelings of isolation and anxiety. Working directly with employees, as well supporting management teams, has shown to bolster overall wellbeing.
Employees have commented that when these programs are delivered, they feel valued by their organization. Implementing these kinds of programs can send an important message to employees about their value and the loyalty of the company to its greatest asset, people. The Virtual Water Cooler groups can lessen the feelings of isolation and increase the ability to cope and function during this uncertain time.
Feel free to reach out for a complementary phone consultation on how I can tailor services to the needs of your organization. I can be reached at 416 795 8006 / [email protected] I look forward to connecting with you.