I consider myself fortunate to think that, during the first and second UK lockdowns, my life hasn’t been really impacted by home working during Covid.
I’ve been selling enterprise Customer Experience (CX) solutions for 30 years and my clients have typically had a global footprint. So, between client meetings and travel, trips to the office were infrequent. My home office was well established with all the comforts of a working environment already in place.
I can reasonably consider myself to be a professional home worker and do sympathise with people having home-working imposed upon them.
It’s everything that shifts: it’s not just the chair you sit on (the the table, the lighting, the view from the window, etc.). The social context has taken a hit: the water cooler moments with colleagues, the beer after work, the team curry. Even shaking someone’s hand has gone.
The sudden move to a laptop, coupled with being deprived of daily social interaction has really challenged the mental wellbeing of millions of people.
The lockdowns are hitting everyone hard. In the last month, three different board directors have told me that they have taken up meditation as a daily activity to cope with the stresses of lockdown.
The first UK lockdown was seen to be an extended holiday – the death count would rise but people were able to be outside in the sunshine, and the rules were bent where possible.
Yes, a lot of people were more considerate as they understood the impact of the spread of the virus and the sense of it being a limited inconvenience meant that people generally ‘stayed in lockdown’.
People working from home improved their workspace and took the steps necessary to protect their mental wellbeing as best they could. Slowly, what had begun as an inconvenience quickly became something that people could see the benefits of.
The key issue now is that we have a second lockdown where we don’t have the luxury of sunny afternoons and a clear idea of when the virus will be gone. While employees are better equipped to deal with it and hit the ground running, both employees and employers are stressing over survival.
I recently bought a second hand desk from a local business with circa 200 staff. The MD and founder was onsite when I collected and he told me that COVID–19 had actually been good for his internet security business.
So many more home workers meant a plethora of SMEs needing to provide secure PCs for homeworkers.
So why sell the desks? Well, of his 200 staff, 194 have elected to work from home for good going forward. His business has pivoted based on the new situation and, so far, he’s not likely to go back to the old ways.
A similar pivot is a C-Level executive working for a household name insurance business. He has a large staff working directly for him, all from home. He focused on team engagement and psychological safety and has seen sustained productivity.
His main work is still in the art of employee engagement but it is “just managing people in a better way”. He recognised that he needed to change as much as his team has.
In fact, his biggest concern is a pre-Covid one – the long term lease signed on a plush city centre building that now sits empty, and in his opinion, may stay that way for good.
We have all evolved through COVID-19, and now we need to go further.
We can take a pointer from the C-Level exec who is focusing efforts on psychological safety including employee mental wellbeing as we contemplate the challenges our staff have working from home.
Going forward, our staff mental wellbeing needs to be our primary concern, not a tick in the box.
Litha’s approach to this is pretty simple: our AI Psychotherapist can assess employee stress and anxiety during a viral epidemic and then provide unlimited 24/7 access to talking therapy.
We all want our staff to do a good job and, as we pivot (and, no doubt pivot again), let’s be sure to give them the mental health support.
Oh, and by the way, as a society shouldn’t we be thinking of a better use for the vacant, plush city centre offices? It seems that making the shift isn’t so difficult after all!
Fear, worry, and stress are normal responses to perceived or real threats, and at times when we are faced with uncertainty or the unknown. So it is normal and understandable that people are experiencing fear in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Added to the fear of contracting the virus in a pandemic such as COVID-19 are the significant changes to our daily lives as our movements are restricted in support of efforts to contain and slow down the spread of the virus. Faced with new realities of working from home, temporary unemployment, home-schooling of children, and lack of physical contact with other family members, friends and colleagues, it is important that we look after our mental, as well as our physical, health.
(World Health Organisation, 2020)
Eric Darling is a highly-regarded business professional who has been working within Banking and Financial Services, Telecoms and Utilities for over 30 years.
With a focus on deploying IT to improve the effectiveness of corporations, he has helped to shape solutions around payment systems, debt management, customer experience and more.
Eric is working with organisations of all types to introduce Litha’s Authentic Conversation suite of products.
“Litha has been creating a groundswell of support for the products in its laboratory and, I’ve been privy to what’s ‘under the bonnet’. The AI Psychotherapist alone is high-impact as it brings together fantastic therapy with an engaging conversational front-end. The insights from this alone will change how enterprises operate.”