Our panel of doctors, psychologists, occupational health and organisational consultants recently gave a holistic view of how to care for yourself, your team and your organisation in 2022 and beyond. In case you missed it, here’s some of what we heard.
1. The virus isn’t going away. Over 18 million new cases were reported the week of 10th January – a 20% increase on the week before that. Although 9.5 billion doses of a vaccine have been administered globally, their unequal distribution remains a risk to global health, and the length of their effectiveness is an unknown area too. And there will be more variants.
2. The legacy of the pandemic will be mixed. There have been massive technological advancements, like the vaccine, and people learning to work from home. We’ve developed resilience too. But we’ve also seen more division, inequality, isolation, fear, burnout and neglect of other illnesses and chronic diseases.
3. We need to consider some key occupational health issues. Two years in and people are still working on their laptop on their kitchen table – here are some tips for staying comfortable. And as people return to workplaces, employers need to consider staff who are most at risk of Coronavirus. There are ‘Covid age’ calculators available that, in combination with a consultation with a clinician, can help you assess a person’s risk of getting a severe illness from COVID-19.
4. Stand up and move around! There is evidence that people who work from home spend more time sitting. This increases our risk of lower back pain, upper limb disorders, cardiovascular disease, obesity, mental health issues and more. Take micro-breaks every 30 – 60 minutes. Try to set limits e.g. 30% standing; 60% sitting; 10% walking / moving / cycling. And urge your team to do the same. For example, you could incentivise your team, via a fun competition, to get up and about during their workday.
5. Leaders: look after yourself. It’s easier to show care and concern for others if you have care and concern for yourself. And if you model wellbeing, the rest of your team are more likely to follow.
6. Look out for your team members. When your team feels valued and supported, they feel like they belong, they feel psychological safety, they become more honest, they ask for help, and they experience meaning and purpose in work.
7. Review the relevance of your systems and processes. So much has changed in the last two years. Your systems and processes might have worked well two years ago, but frustrate the work you are doing now. Review them together with your team – you’ll no doubt identify some tweaks that can make life easier for you all.
It’s easier to show care and concern for others if you have care and concern for yourself.
8. Don’t ask ‘shall we return to the office?’. Instead ask ‘What are we going to do when you are all together?’. When you are together, prioritise the things that are hard to do remotely: networking, building social capital, mentoring, strategising, enculturating (e.g. ‘how are things done around here?’) and problem-solving.
9. For most people working from home is better. It has improved wellbeing. They can do things like ‘put a load of washing on’. They have no commute. They are more productive. And there is more possibility to see family, friends and nature.
10. However, working from home has not been good for everyone. Be especially mindful of young people in your organisation. Those who are young, single and extraverted are likely to feel isolated. This is especially true if they are new to the company, or to the world of work. There has been a big uptick of mental health conditions among young people simply because they are isolated. If you have colleagues in this bracket, get in touch with them! Spontaneous interaction is either required or desired.
11. Create space to be silly and to relax. It’s important to maintain informal communications channels, like Whatsapp or Slack, in which people can be silly and have fun. All well run organisations have a ‘silly’ communications group like this. Have a ‘check in’ and ‘check-out’ at meetings to see how people are doing or chat about something topical. Call people from time to time – just call them! And you don’t always need to type messages – use voice notes instead, as it’s really important to hear people’s tone of voice sometimes. Don’t have back to back to back meetings – make sure there is space between them. And remember, there is no substitute for gathering in person.
12. Be aware of ‘end-stage weariness’ in your team. Sleep disorders have skyrocketed during the pandemic, which has led to increased irritability. Short term memory has been harmed too. Anxiety, hostility, grief, frustration and a loss of sense of time have all risen.
13. There are lots of ways to make returning to the office easier. Senior staff should be the first people through the door – office work is not just for junior members. And as soon as it’s safe, you should encourage or insist on people taking holidays / vacations. Here’s some more of our tips on returning to the office.
We can help you and your organisation navigate 2022 and beyond. Whether you’d like us to support the physical and psychological wellbeing of an individual, to review specific occupational health situations in your workplace, to provide your team with workshops and training, or to offer leadership and management support, get in touch to find out more.