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Supporting your team’s wellbeing when working from home

The last few years have put a strain on everyone’s mental health. Along with changing ways of working, including many people now working from home at least some of the time, it’s more important than ever that leaders have wellbeing conversations with their people.

Whilst working remotely can have many benefits for your team members such as reduced travel time, lower petrol costs and fewer interruptions, from a wellbeing perspective there can be downsides from working in an environment where a lot of engagement is done through a screen.

Humans are social creatures; we need to interact with others to survive. The pandemic has increased social isolation for many people living in New Zealand, with Stats NZ reporting that nearly 10% of the population have experienced prolonged loneliness since lockdown (an almost 250% increase from before Covid).

Over the past 8 years I’ve been passionately championing wellbeing at work. This has really come to the fore since Covid in my People & Culture Director roles, leading large businesses and consulting at several organisations.

From these experiences, I’ve put together some suggestions for supporting the wellbeing of your team members whilst working from home. These are not just ‘nice ideas’. They’re based on what I’ve tried, and what I’ve seen other leaders do, that have really made a difference.

1. Make face-to-face time count

Don’t fill up the time that your team is in the office or worksite with standing meetings or individual work. Use this valuable time for collaboration, social interaction and meaningful one-on-one conversations with your team members and colleagues across the business.

Action: Set aside time to discuss and agree together your team’s ways of working. For example, you may choose to schedule all your standing meetings on non-office days, so your face-to-face time can be used for more creative work such as brainstorming, innovation or simply catching up.

2. Allow time in your meetings to chat

When we’re in online meetings I’ve noticed that we get right down to business from the get-go. As a result, we’ve lost the few minutes of conversation at the start of the meeting when people are coming into the room and as we walk back to our workspaces.

Action: Allow some time in your online meeting agendas for informal conversations; perhaps the first 5 minutes, and if you’re leading the meeting, ask some open questions to facilitate this.

3. Schedule in social catch-ups when you’re working remotely

We need to be intentional and deliberate about scheduling catchups into our working-from-home diaries and shouldn’t feel guilty or that it’s a waste of time. In our workplaces it’s totally ok to take a break and have an impromptu corridor or kitchen kōrero; this is no different.

Action: Encourage your team members to schedule in meetings for social catch-ups when they’re working remotely. This could be a 15 to 30-minute slot for a conversation over a cuppa to check in on someone, chat about the weekend or simply shoot the breeze.

4. Organise wellbeing buddies amongst your team

Wellbeing buddies are pairs who check in with each other on a regular basis when at least one of them is working remotely. The buddies organise whatever works bests for them, e.g., it could be a regular phone call or a cup of coffee via VC. Usually as pairs, wellbeing buddies can be self-forming, or you could kickstart a process to form them across your team.

Action: Speak to your team members about arranging wellbeing buddies who can catch up with each other when they’re working remotely. I’ve seen this become a powerful point of connection that can have a big impact.

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