Mental Health in the Workplace
The importance of Social Connection through Quarantine Isolation
We are currently in unchartered waters. Life, as we know it, has changed. Most of us are generally social creatures, and as such we are unaccustomed to the quarantine isolation that so many of us are in. Some have lost jobs and others are working from home, either way, we are all having to adjust to a new “norm”.
We are being told to not leave the house unless we must, resulting in our usual social activities coming to a stop. Going to the gym or coffee catchups are now on hold as well as our incidental chats with other staff members at our workplace.
We need to be mindful now, more than ever that our physical isolation does not mean we have to be in social isolation. We need to ensure that we stay connected.
The recent years have seen an increase in corporate burnout and on the coat tails of this burnout, we now face even more stress compounded with a decrease in incidental communication. We need to ensure that we balance our work / life commitment, while considering our feelings of isolation and loneliness.
Social isolation is essentially being physically distant or separated from others. Most of us are in this situation now.
Loneliness, on the other hand, is the subjective feeling we have when we don’t feel as though we have meaningful connections or we don’t have someone to talk to. 70% of our happiness is dependent on the relationships we have – friends, family, coworkers and community, irrespective of our age or demographic.
General chit chat with our work colleagues has a huge impact on our mental and emotional wellbeing. From personal experience I know that we can often be distracted from feelings of depression or anxiety just by going to work. But now, through physical isolation, mental illness may be exasperated through the lack of this distraction.
The Importance of Social Connection
We need to place greater importance on social connection if we want keep staff productive and emotionally well. If not, there a greater chance of loss of productivity, loss of creativity and sick leave increasing as mental and emotional health deteriorates. Companies need to put systems in place now, to ensure staff feel connected and have someone to talk to.
What companies do now?
- Keep communication open and create an internal policy to ensure staff know what is expected of them, where they can go for help and any other resources that many be relevant.
- Create clear boundaries for your employees to identify when their workday starts and ends to ensure that they don’t overwork and do spend quality time with their families at the end of each day.
- Help them create habits that include some sort of structure in their day. Possibly offer an online morning exercise class or social chit chat connection so staff can check in with each other (just as they would if they were in the office).
- Encourage staff to get regular exercise, such as a walk around the block, whether first thing in the morning, during a lunch break or as a way to end the day.
- Share details of a counsellor, or kinesiologist that staff can turn to for regular sessions to help them navigate through any mental and emotional challenges they may be facing.
- Have a virtual “social hour” on Friday nights where everyone can connect and have a laugh.
- Offer meditations, tips and brain break exercises on your internal network that staff can tap into whenever they need.
- Create a “funnies” portal to help bring some laughter back into everyone’s life.
- Encourage regular “sun” and “fresh air” breaks. Step outside and spend a few minutes soaking up the sun and breathing in the fresh air. A quick walk up and down the street will encourage blood flow and help the brain to reset.
- Appreciate your staff by showing them that they are valued. Send them a “care” package of cheese and crackers, or something similar, ready for Friday night catch ups.
- Encourage mindfulness techniques and regular breaks.
The Benefits of these times
Lastly, while we are circumnavigating these times, there may be some benefits to re-evaluating how we run our businesses. These times are encouraging us all to think “outside the box” which may have future benefits for the way our company will operate in the future.
Please reach out if you wish to discuss anything further and wishing you all an amazing day filled with moments of joy.
And remember, Happiness Starts with a Smile and Empowerment Starts with a Choice!
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