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Virtual Roundtable: Employee Wellbeing in a Pandemic

Over the second half of last year, while the pandemic was in full force and uncertainty surrounded the working world, Synetec ran a series of virtual round table events to bring together leading executive suite professionals to discuss topical issues, share the challenges they’ve faced and the solutions that have worked in their companies.

With lockdowns, hybrid working and flexible furlough coming into play for businesses last year, our most recent roundtable event brought together a panel to discuss some of the challenging topics arising from this new way of working. Given we’ve just gone back into lockdown, this is an opportune moment to share some of the topics discussed and solutions that have worked to address the challenges.

Keeping high performers engaged whilst remote working  

At the start of the first lockdown, the big priority was helping people to move to a new way of working, particularly if they hadn’t worked remotely before. There was a definite feeling of comradery through the initial stages, but as the year wore on, employees started to feel wearier being apart from their colleagues and suffered from ‘Zoom fatigue’When it came to high performers, the big challenge to their motivation was the loss of interaction. 

Under usual circumstances, high performers will hear a conversation or have something dropped on their desk that sparks their ideas and drives enthusiasm. The panellists also reported that the highest performers sometimes found online idea generation sessions difficult as it was hard to find their creative flow with the inevitable interruptions of screaming kids, barking dogs, drilling outside and connections dropping in and out. 

As the understanding of technology platforms evolved and the needs of employees became clear, the panellists all agreed that the solution to keeping people engaged came down to one thing. Communication. Having the right communication strategy in place and incorporating a range of ways for teams to communicate was a gamechanger in keeping people engaged. Introducing paid time off to learn new skills or work on projects, holding Facebook Live sessions, sending pre-recorded messages, creating podcasts and using digital whiteboards were some of the new ways that businesses used to communicate with their people and are methods they intend to keep using in the future. 

Supporting good mental health for remote workers 

Whilst some employees relished remote working, for many it was an extremely difficult transition. For people who live alone, usual office life was their primary source of social interaction. It became really clear very early on that employees needed to feel supported and those who wanted to were able to comfortably reach out. Communication that happened naturally in workplaces, in the canteen or at the watercooler had to be replicated and become intentional.

Managers implemented checking in calls, where the main topic of conversation was just to ask ‘how are you’? ‘Video on’ policies were also reported to help with mental wellbeing as colleagues were able to see each other and provide some element of social interaction.  

Our panellists also found that when they were able to have employees in the office, that face to face interaction gave them a big emotional boost and reenergised them. It was important to provide opportunities in a Covid safe way for colleagues to come into the office for an emotional recharge.  

One company even had their senior management team drive out to the homes of those who were self-isolating to have socially distanced doorstep conversations. Ensuring people don’t feel alone is key and something all business leaders need to strive for within their organisations.

With more leaders aware of their team’s mental health than ever before, our panellists believe this has been one big positive to come out of the pandemic. Ideas and discussions on the topic have been at the forefront with a genuine desire to do the right thing.  

What does the future hold? 

With most businesses proving that they can work efficiently whilst remote, they feel prepared that they will probably never go back to a 5-day week in the office. With that said, the opportunity should always be there for colleagues to meet up socially or to spend time together in the office. The success of future ways of working has a heavy reliance on communication and technologyThere must be a strong communications plan in place that incorporates varied, deliberate and structured messaging and the right technology must be utilised to support the desired communication outcomes.

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