November 26, 2020

How businesses are prioritising mental health during COVID-19


man and woman in a Zoom video chat

Hi there,

COVID-19 has transformed where we work and for most, the way we work. Zoom meetings have replaced face-to-face gatherings and Slack messaging has filled the void of watercooler chats. And working remotely has had some big upsides. However, it has also meant longer days and less in-person interaction. Which is something even the most ardent introvert has missed.

It seems the loss of social interaction and disruption of routine, combined with the presence of a deadly pandemic, have impacted mental wellbeing in the ‘workplace’. Thankfully, many businesses have embraced the opportunity to institute better mental health practices. From ensuring the immediate health and safety of staff to providing support services for wellbeing, COVID-19 has forced businesses to put mental health on the agenda. What mental health practices are working? Let’s dive in.

Adopting flexible remote-working arrangements

With people staying at home, many businesses had to adapt to new remote working arrangements. There was an urgent need for employees to regain structure, routine and normality around work. But this hasn’t been without hiccup! Many businesses had to pivot and adopt new ways of working through trial and error. At Avion, we’ve had a flexible ‘work-from-home Wednesday’ policy that’s been in place for years. Using the flexible foundations we’d already built into the working week, we were able to move to full-time remote working with ease and efficiency.

Getting work done is a priority. But the traditional 9-5 arrangement is starting to shift. This begins with managers having open conversations with their employees about how and when work could be accomplished. Everyone has different responsibilities at home. For parents working from home, this meant juggling childcare and/or teaching, as well as working simultaneously. Businesses that allow flexible arrangements, such as alternative hours, or adjusted work hours per week, can ensure employees succeed in their roles as well handle home life.

Staying virtually connected with employees

While productivity and business performance are important, staff wellbeing and connectedness should also be a priority for remote work. Just as you would interact daily with your co-workers in the office, it’s important to continue that trend virtually, too. Some ways we stay connected online at Avion include:

  • A buddy system – where you check-in on your nominated buddy for the week. ‘Buddy chats’ can be over the phone, via video or on Slack, and discussions range from sharing work successes and/or problem-solving, to book and TV recommendations.
  • Team WIP (work-in-progress) meeting – we get together once a week as a team to discuss our work-related highlights, lowlights, learnings and who in the team we’re grateful for. This helps maintain a sense of team unity and encourages shared learning experiences, even while everyone’s physically separated.
  • Holding team-building activities – such as online bingo and trivia. Mid-morning coffee walks and after-work drinks were pre-COVID mainstays for Avion-ites. So we’ve tried to get our social fun fix where appropriate and possible. For example, we all participated in an online bingo and trivia session hosted by Austin, Texas locals Good Snake.

Having an open-door culture supporting mental health and wellbeing

Leaders that promote an open culture of discussion about mental health can make a big difference. Whether it’s dedicating time for 1-on-1s with employees, or facilitating mental health support through counselling services, such as an employee assistance program (EAP), businesses that promote  mental health practices can help team members build resilience. This contributes to a high level of confidence, healthy work routines, and social and family support.

At Avion, everyone’s encouraged to take a mental health day every few months. And it’s something we’ve been doing for years. It empowers staff to prioritise their mental health and removes any guilt or shame associated with ‘chucking a sickie’. During the pandemic, Avion has also started an employee assistance program, giving staff an opportunity to speak to a mental health professional. Initiatives like these go a long way to supporting the wellbeing of your team.

As businesses prepare for a new COVID-normal, there are plenty of mental health practices and policies your business can put into place to ensure staff are equipped with the tools to manage work and family life. Please feel free to get in touch to have a chat about what’s worked for us.

Until next time,

Tom & the Avion team



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