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March 26, 2020 // Opinion  //       //  Opinion

Keeping Mentally and Physically Well While WFH

By: Ashleigh Butson

It’s Monday morning and day seven of self-isolation. Your alarm goes off and you quickly hit snooze. You lie there and remember your HR department has told you to stick to the same routine you would if it was a normal workday. That suggestion is great, but not realistic.

Let’s be honest, it’s not a normal day – not even close. Your routine now involves figuring out how to use your coffee machine because Suzy from your local Starbucks won’t be able to make your favorite morning concoction. You now homeschool your children, take conference calls from your kitchen table and blare CNN in the background. You decided today is the day you will start one of the 20 different workout apps you downloaded over the weekend. You must be ready when someone tags you in the push-up challenge on Instagram. This is your new routine, and it’s hard.

As an HR professional, it’s difficult not to worry about your staff during this time. I find myself trying to come up a with one solution that fits all, but unfortunately there is no one perfect answer.  What I can do, is provide guidance on everyone’s new normal and how to manage through this unfamiliar stress.

Absolutely have a routine, but know it won’t be the same as your normal one. Set alarms for meals and breaks, carve out time for your family, a facetime call with your loved ones and, of course, your workout at home. Companies will need to be flexible for all employees. Give parents time to teach science, and give the employees who live in the 450-square-foot Manhattan flat a break from their tiny space. With the proper communication within a team, this uncomfortable living will soon feel comfortable.

As for communication, there is no time like the present to overdo it. Employees want to hear from everyone, including leaders. Employers can eliminate employee stress with daily calls and emails. Nothing is more comforting than waking up to an email from your CEO letting everyone know they are thinking of them and their families. Communicate your new routine to your team. Let them know you will be unavailable from 10 a.m.-11 a.m., that way you won’t be interrupted in the middle of your fourth-grade reading lesson. I also encourage virtual meetings and happy hours with your teams. It’s important to continue to celebrate the culture you worked so hard to develop. Seeing a familiar face after a long day of managing work, the news, and two pots of mediocre coffee will generate some normality and calm.

Although much of the population has taken a liking to the at-home workouts, they aren’t for everyone. It’s still critical to give our brains and bodies healthy attention. Whether it’s an e-book, or a real book, a podcast, meditation app, a puzzle, Jenga with your 5-year old or a trip to the dog park, detaching from the business and having some self-care is important. A social media cleanse in the evening is suggested. Staying off your phone at night will allow for a less stressful evening and more restful sleep. I promise you, everyone’s stories and latest TikTok videos will still be there for your viewing pleasure in the morning. 

Lastly, it’s time to be kind to each other. Take the time to say thank you, say sorry if an apology is needed, acknowledge the employees who worked over the weekend or send an email to see how your peers are doing across the country. Remember that no one is in this alone, and the slightest effort will make this time feel less lonely. Gratitude is proven to boost mental health and can do miracles for our new normal. Be a part of someone’s journey to getting comfortable with the uncomfortable. It’s time for us to be grateful for what we have and the people around us.

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 Ashleigh Buston is the Global Chief Talent Officer at Allison + Partners. Her main focus is on building up our people, culture and finding ways to enhance the employee life cycle.


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