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Supporting Positive Well-Being During A Pandemic

Nov 11, 2021 | COVID19, Health and Safety, HR Canada

For most workplaces, Covid-19 has and continues to shift the conditions and circumstances within which businesses operate. Some of these circumstances are novel and employers are learning how to navigate these uncharted territories. One thing is for sure, however, is that the emotional trauma caused by the pandemic has reiterated the value of positive wellbeing to lower health risks. A strong sense of wellbeing makes it easier for employees to overcome difficulties, and, when the time comes, to transition back into more normalized work conditions.

What we see happening now is employers exploring best practices to support the wellbeing of their remote workforces, essential workers and, yes, those who are temporarily laid off. The good news is, prior to this, many businesses had created and/or were establishing a culture that values and actively supports employees’ wellness and wellbeing. If you are one of these companies, you already have tools, resources and programs in place to support your workers. As a result, your responsibilities as an employer include redirecting those resources and re-tooling programs to better address the new circumstances faced by your workforce. If you are not one of these companies, the below best practices still do apply to your circumstances.

Remote workforce

Remember that you have a workforce with different personalities and living circumstances. Some workers will embrace remote work while others may find it taxing. Managing and supporting each type of worker requires flexibility. For example, be flexible with work hours. Some employees may need to care for children and other family members. Instead of expecting your employees to work 9-5, create timelines for deliverables. This allows them the opportunity to create their own work schedule, whilst still meeting deadlines.
Implement systems that ensure connectivity- There are many apps-video and audio- that keep the lines of communication open and which facilitate collaborative work.
Provide work that meets the business’s objective and creates a sense of purpose. This will reinforce that the work they do is meaningful and, during a very distressing time, could add value to their days. Take care not to overwhelm employees with work and unrealistic deadlines and don’t forget to express your appreciation.
Encourage employees to socialize -Create a virtual water cooler. This adds a social element that remote workers crave. Virtual lunchrooms, online games, webcam hangout rooms, feed workers’ social appetite.
Encourage active living, health and safety- Create awareness and solutions to health and safety risks. For example, provide information or tutorials on how to combat ergonomics, stress, burnout and host online meditation/yoga sessions.
For essential workers

During a pandemic, essential workers may be asked to work longer hours. Exercise caution when making such requests. Emphasize the need for regular rest and breaks to re-energize oneself, prevent burnout and better manage stress. And, where possible, hire more workers to fill the surplus of labour that is now available
Take all possible steps to protect their health and safety. Implement best practices and procedures recommended by public health authorities and provide appropriate protective equipment and products. When employees know that measures have been implemented to lower risks to their health and safety, it offers a great level of peace of mind.
Provide support- Support may include daycare services, travel or accommodation or a simple coffee station at work.
Temporary laid-off workers

For workers who are laid off, show your humanity with authentic and sensitive responses. For example, offer support by reminding workers of the benefits due to them and, where needed, assist employees in the application processes. Helping your workforce to preserve financial security is one fewer issue they have to think about.
Be honest with regards to the impact of the crisis on the business’ operation. By being transparent you foster trust and employees can objectively explore the options available to them.
Keep communication open- regular communication that is non-work-related shows that you do not only care about the work they do, but that you care about who they are and how they are managing.
Include employees in the decision-making process. For those companies that value collaboration, this is an opportunity to reinforce collaborative leadership. Allow employees to make recommendations about the business’s operation. There is no certainty that the recommendations may bear fruit, but involvement keeps employees engaged even when they’re not working. It also gives them the opportunity to have some control of what is happening, instead of making them feel that things are happening to them.
The accumulative impacts of a pandemic may result in emotional trauma for your workforce. And one main certainty the pandemic has unearthed is that wellbeing is impacted by our environment, people and the circumstances that give rise to their interaction. Therefore, safeguarding positive wellbeing requires the collective efforts of employers, co-workers and the individual. As an employer, your efforts are not to fix but to provide support and help employees manage difficulties that may compromise positive wellbeing.