As countries went into lockdown to contain the pandemic, people worldwide have had to adjust to new realities.
Staying indoors and working from home has deprived us of physical connections and face-to-face interaction with our wider community. As social creatures, that can take a mental, and even a physical toll.
It’s natural to feel anxious, isolated and stressed, even more so than usual but while we have to be physically apart, we’ve been finding ways to help our people stay connected.
Keeping it flexible
Many organisations, including ours, have asked employees in non-critical functions to work from home.
But that isn’t enough — we also want to empower them to work in the ways that suit them best. Offering flexible working, which we've had in place for some time, helps enable this.
Whether our employees have family members to care for, or need to extend their day to accommodate colleagues in another time zone, flexi-hours and the ability to work part-time helps maintain a proper work-life balance.
There has been a rise in employees taking up flexi-time in our markets recently, showing how useful flexible work can be in supporting our people during these difficult times.
Keeping it inclusive
Since many of us no longer work in the same physical spaces, maintaining clear lines of communication has become crucial. As the emotional impact of the pandemic is different on each individual, Millicent Clarke, our Regional Head of Human Resources, Africa and Middle East, has emphasised the importance of empathetic thinking when it comes to managing employees.
Our Inclusion Toolkit suggests ways we can communicate with each other led by emotional and behavioural intelligence. This includes running inclusive meetings that create a safe space for opinions to be shared and heard. Meanwhile, virtual periodic 'tea and talk' sessions let staff voice their concerns and share about their lives outside of work.
Saying hello to colleagues and asking how they are is something that we will probably never again take for granted. In a normal business day, it’s a quick way to check in and make sure our colleagues are doing well.
One avenue for employees to find the support they need is by simply picking up the phone. Our UAE office, for instance, has a 24-hour hotline that employees can call if they have questions or concerns.
Keeping it mindful
Supporting the well-being of our employees remains top of mind in our remote-working lives. The uncertainty of the current situation and getting used to working from home can raise levels of stress and anxiety. To help our employees better care for their mental and physical wellness at home, we developed a number of programmes and learning resources.
Our weekly online wellness seminars, for example, cover a range of topics, from tips on getting a good night’s sleep to activities for entertaining the kids. Our staff also came together to initiate a #WorkoutFromHome challenge, where they share exercise routines and photos to inspire and encourage others to keep fit.
Many colleagues have been finding it hard to balance their work and personal lives during lockdown. Our Inclusion Toolkit suggests ways to draw the line between both, such as creating dedicated day and night routines, like the ones we had before the pandemic. That could be as simple as starting the day with a cup of coffee and shutting down at night after writing a to-do list for the next day!