It wasn’t — and it still isn’t — easy for any business to adjust to what the social media has taken to calling the “new normal.” While remote working isn’t anything new, never before have more businesses around the planet been forced to embrace it as a way of life than in the past few months. Every full and bustling office space virtually around the world has been changed by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The impact of the pandemic may have begun to wane in some parts of the globe, but the same cannot be said for the U.S. Even in areas where recovery has continually been strong, the effects of the virus on business can still be felt in full, and experts are anticipating no letup, at least in the near and foreseeable future.
Businesses in the U.S. scrambled to support their employees. Working from home became standard for companies that could continue to run with at least a partially remote workforce. Some have totally given up their office space in favor of working from home, with vague plans of signing a new lease once it is again declared safe for their employees to go out and get back to working in an office environment without risk of contracting the virus.
Many companies quickly put together a plan to support their work-at-home employees by letting them take their office computers home and giving them additional allowances for internet service. There are also others that supplied their employees with new laptops and other equipment that the employees needed to stay productive. In many cases, businesses have also had to give their workers some financial and medical assistance.
However, even if many companies have been successful in adapting to remote working, effectively protecting workers by adhering to physical distancing protocols even when they still have to share office space, the pandemic’s effects have not all been physiological. More people have been psychologically affected than infected by the COVID-19 virus.
For more than 73% of Americans, as the Pew Research Center reported in a recent poll, anxiety is a part of at least several of their days every week. Anxiety levels have increased by 59%, according to Evidation Health. So, not only are people facing a serious threat to their health in the form of a virus that does not have a vaccine just yet, but they are also experiencing more challenges mentally. And because mental health is foundational to overall wellbeing, it is paramount for companies to ensure their employees receive support for their mental wellness.
For many, this pandemic has been the leading cause of increased stress and fear levels. Such things may become the precursors for worse and longer-lasting concerns, including depression and anxiety. Post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, is another serious risk.
Not only are people forced to work from home, but their children are also forced to study at home. What used to be a decades-long equation that worked — parents in the workplace and children in school — is now a thing of the past, so if you’re working from home and also playing substitute teacher to your child or children, stress and anxiety might not be far behind.
This is a volatile situation that might explode or implode in the near future. Employees who used to be happy working in their office space might already be falling apart, and if their personal success and mental health are in jeopardy, the success of the business might be at risk, as well.
What Business Leaders Can Do
If you’re wondering how businesses can survive this pandemic, the answer is through the welfare of their employees. Healthy employees are the lifeblood of a healthy business, and never has this been any truer and in a more literal sense. Your business’s survival depends on your strategy in keeping your employees healthy and reasonably happy.
This pandemic has brought uncertainty to everyday life. Burnouts, considered by the WHO as a workplace syndrome, cost $125 billion every year — before COVID-19. That startling statistic is set to go up now that the multi-pronged threat created by COVID-19 has made it possible for healthy, happy, and reliable individuals to burn out sooner.
But there is something you can do as a leader even today when you don’t share an office space with your team. And that is to do your very best to protect your people from burning out and giving in to the anxiety brought about by the pandemic.
First of all, you have to acknowledge and understand the situation and its severity. Burnout often occurs when a person has to face demands that far exceed the resources available to them for dealing with those demands. This current situation we’re in seems like the perfect petri dish for such challenges. And you have to prepare yourself to face it.
It is also important that you have a reasonable grasp of your employees’ individual mental makeup. This is not easy and it’s not for everyone, but if it’s something you can do or something you were good at when you shared office space with your people, it can give you a better chance of helping them now. Those who exhibit more empathy, and those whose first reactions are typically charged with emotion, are the ones at higher risk for burnout.
It is time for employers and business leaders to accept that this work-from-home scenario does not necessarily translate to a better work-life balance. And instead of giving employees an opportunity to manage their stress, it might end up derailing their stress management practices.
What you should focus on right now is your employees’ mental health. And you can do it by having a more holistic view and a more human way of dealing with your people in this crisis. Big data was largely focused on consumer information and behavior, but now the spotlight widens to include the people whose job it was to collect that data. Because today, the data should expand to cover mental health strategies that will help businesses now and in the future.
Connecticut Business Centers
If you’re in the market for a new office space or a virtual office, get in touch with Connecticut Business Centers. Call us at (203) 359-5600 or use our Contact Us page to send us a message. We have offices in Stamford, CT, and in other areas around Connecticut.