Mental Health is Health
Reflections on a challenging year in the workplace
Author: Shane Orchard
May 13, 2021
The global pandemic has forced change at an accelerated pace. For the LiveArea team, like many other businesses, that meant adopting a remote working model for the past year. Nothing can quite prepare you for a pandemic and even a year later it is still difficult to reflect on and accept the reality of what has happened — and what may come. Many have experienced anxiety and depression and not just people who contracted the virus. According to one research organization, in the United Kingdom alone 42% of adults reported symptoms of anxiety and stress due to the pandemic.
In a world where we only see our friends, families, and colleagues through a screen, it is important to understand and speak about how we feel when the cameras are off. We have been through a year of working remotely and that isolation is not easy. For many, the smiling face on camera doesn’t reflect the myriad of feelings and emotions swirling inside.
When it comes to the workplace, it is clear the pandemic will have long-lasting effects on businesses and people’s attitudes and expectations related to work. In many ways, the pandemic has brought people closer as a team, particularly if you work with offshore teams. Your small physical bubble in the real world was constricting, whereas the digital world created a borderless bubble and a safe place. As lockdowns ease, we must not forget the learnings gained in this time of trauma. Getting your work-life balance right is key to staying mentally healthy, and work shouldn’t just be all work and no play.
To this point, at LiveArea many things helped keep my spirits up that I hope will continue in a post lockdown world:
- Weekly team meetings with cameras on where everyone discusses work but finishes with sharing something personal (a television series they recommend, weekend plans, favouriteband, etc…)
- Weekly company meetings with a twist (such as quizzes and ‘getting to know you’ special guests)
- General meetings with cameras on (helped to make it more personable)
- Monthly team drinks (time in the diary to relax, unwind and chat with no fixed agenda)
- Small gestures that went a long way (Monthly food packages, Halloween drinks kit, advent calendars)
- Employee of the month awards
- Digital escape rooms
- Bi-weekly team quizzes and games
- HIIT classes
- Lunch and learn speakers
The relationships developed with offshore teams and clients through video calls have no reason to cease. The monthly and weekly events that brought people so much joy should continue whether that’s in the digital or physical world, and the time to unwind and relax as a team is more important now than ever.
Businesses have an obligation to care for their staff and adapt to the new hybrid world of working. The lockdown has shown how well people can work when trusted and empowered, whilst also highlighting that your physical location doesn’t need to be a barrier. Creating a happy workforce and enabling people to find their happy place ultimately leads to business and personal success. The fact is we all must help create environments where people can find their voice and feel empowered to speak up.
Strength comes from speaking
For those who had mental health problems before the pandemic or even triggered by the pandemic, I can’t offer you the answers, but please know that everyone at some point suffers in silence. Once you open up to someone the weight can be managed or perhaps eventually lifted. Ultimately, the final lift will come from within but sharing the load with others can help.
Remember that in the workplace you have your manager, your Human Resources team, and colleagues who can support you, and likely need support themselves. Outside of work you have family, friends, and professionals you can turn to. If that all feels too daunting then as a first step you can remain anonymous and seek help through hotlines, chat rooms, online communities, and apps. Strength comes from speaking.
The little things
Outside of work, make sure you find and cherish the little things that make you happy. Whether that’s a cup of tea, a walk, a phone call, a song, a show, a book, or anything else that lifts your spirits. For me, I noticed the correlation between work and home life happiness when I fell out of the habit of exercising. Aerobic exercise has been proven to reduce stress hormones and stimulate endorphins in the brain that helps to elevate your mood. Just getting out of the house and exercising again really helped me to get back on track mentally. I would urge everyone to reflect on what they used to do as part of their daily routine and look into trying new things.
Lockdown effectively trapped all of us in a physical cage – and mentally, too. As we emerge it is key to understand that everyone will be coping differently, and the new world we are stepping into will be challenging. Encourage your teams to speak up and share how they feel, make sure the workplace isn’t one-size-fits-all, and keep looking for ways to inspire inclusivity and bring people together. You spend more of your life with your work family than anyone else, and as with any family, the relationships need nurturing.
Here’s to a better year for everyone.
Head of Digital Trading & Marketing Operations EMEA