With the coronavirus-induced lockdowns resulting in thousands of people working from home and unable to leave their houses for extended periods, there are a number of concerns with employee wellbeing during this time. As social distancing measures could be in place for a much longer time, the toll isolation is taking on our wellbeing is likely to become more pronounced before the measures are lifted.
With so many teams now working remotely, this could threaten workers’ mental health and their productivity. However, there is evidence that virtual communication can help mitigate the effects of loneliness and isolation and thanks to the wide range of virtual tools being used to conduct virtual meetings, remote teams have a lot of options to choose from. With the coronavirus crisis already causing us enough stress and anxiety, there is some evidence that regular virtual communication can support workers’ mental health and encourage productivity even when our lives are in such turmoil.
The negative effects of isolation
There is some evidence to suggest that extended isolation can have an effect on both our physical and mental health. Isolation:
- Can cause depression and heighten anxiety
- Can affect our sleeping pattern
- Can even make people more susceptible to disease
Many of us may be living alone at this time and therefore seeing very little of other people in person and experiencing next to no contact with our friends and loved ones. Though we may also be keeping in contact with friends and relatives virtually, work is where most of us experience most of our socialising. With this support framework gone, it’s important for teams working remotely to keep in contact to provide that social interaction.
Thanks to the social, economic and health implications of the coronavirus, it’s also more important than ever to protect against the damaging effects of isolation and combat feelings of loneliness wherever we are.
The importance of routine
Routine is important in managing the effects of negative mental health and keeping yourself healthy. For those who struggle with poor mental health, routine and exercise are often recommended ways of improving self-awareness and overcoming the challenges of living with mental health issues. Though we are now limited in what we can do and how often we can leave the house, finding a routine which is also within the limits of our activities can still be a simple and effective way of keeping on top of our mental health.
Routine will always mean different things to different people, even down to whether we eat breakfast or not in the morning, but often attending work is most of our daily routine so to now be without that can be difficult to adapt to. Finding ways to substitute our typical work routines with virtual contact can help workers orientate themselves from home. Whether this is a weekly meeting at a regular time or keeping in contact via instant messaging, encouraging socialisation during work hours even while at home can help us to establish new routines.
How to get the most out of virtual meetings
Virtual meetings may not be common for most workplaces and many people may be finding themselves in charge of running them for the first time. To ensure everybody finds worth in regular meetings, there are a few steps that can be taken to get the most from them.
Deciding the intention of your meetings will help you understand what value attendees will draw from them. Whether their key aim is socialisation to ensure all workers are regularly involved with each other or whether there are business objectives to each meeting, having a clear awareness of this will help you record success and structure your meetings accordingly.
- Choosing the right tool
With so many options to choose from, finding the right tool that works for your team and for your meetings is important. Whether it’s Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Google Hangout or even Facebook Messenger, ensure every team member has access to the tool and is able to join on at the specified time. This may mean trialling different tools until you settle on a consensus, but this will help people to be engaged and prepared for each meeting.
Preparing properly is an essential part of any meeting and it’s no different for virtual communication. Outlining your intentions for the meeting, as well as encouraging attendees to come prepared if necessary, will ensure a smooth progression that correctly hits the targets you are planning to hit.
During meetings, following a structure will help keep it organised and keep everyone on-task. If the main intention of your meeting is for socialising, a structure may still encourage everyone to join in and contribute.
How remote meetings can promote productivity
No matter the intention of your meetings, having regular meetings and encouraging staff to share their plans for the day, week or month will help them to organise themselves and make their goals seem more achievable. Speaking our intentions is a good way of manifesting them and this may be lacking for those at home with nobody to talk to. This can add extra support for people in isolation while encouraging work productivity.
Mandating regular attendance, especially early in the day, ensures staff are awake and in a working mindset. With isolation potentially having an influence on our sleeping patterns, regular meetings and communication can help people stay in a regular rhythm which is also helpful in sticking to routines. Some companies host coffee mornings or quick catch-ups in the morning which can be especially helpful for staff who are struggling to cope with the lockdown.
By banishing the negative effects of isolation through virtual communication, we can ensure that workers’ mental health is being supported while working from home and that productivity is being maintained in the remote workplace. The coronavirus pandemic is causing an unprecedented change in all aspects of life but we must all remember that humans are social beings and that keeping in touch with each other is good for our mental and physical wellbeing.
This article was written by Ben Fielding from Criterion Systems, business telephone systems provider in the UK.