Let’s stay in touch
It’s the middle of March and whilst normally that means rejoicing at the start of spring and planning summer holidays, this year is different. This year the talk is about self isolation, about protecting family and friends and the vulnerable. This is the year when society pulls together, united by a common enemy which respects no boundaries.
All of a sudden the normal pattern of working goes out the window as individuals are asked to work from home wherever possible or are forced to self isolate. There is every chance that business continuity plans will kick in, with people being expected to step up and take on tasks which are outside their normal role, and with leaders being required to assess what tasks may be temporarily suspended in order to reduce pressure on the workplace.
Businesses which have robust plans in place should be able to react quickly, for example:
- resetting telephone call pathways so that incoming calls are rerouted onwards to those working at home,
- broadening the scope of telephone answering hunt groups,
- or instigating conference calls in place of face-to-face meetings.
However, there is one area which may not be on the immediate to-do list but which nevertheless is vital for business cohesion. That is making sure that those who are working from home or self isolating do not feel lonely or alienated from the business environment. Day-to-day interactions form a vital role in maintaining people engagement within a strong business culture. Even those chats by the coffee machine, however insubstantial, help to forge bonds within the workplace.
It is therefore vital to ensure that steps are taken so that those working from home, particularly if they are used to day-to-day interactions, still feel that they are integrated into the day-to-day life of the business. Quite simply, the solution is to encourage your people to pick up the phone.
If one member of your team would normally chat to a colleague while making a cup of coffee, then encourage them to sit down with a coffee and give their colleague a ring. If a team was in the habit of sitting down for ten minutes at the beginning of the day and chatting over the previous night’s TV, then set up a conference call so that the normal pattern of interactions can be continued, as far as possible.
A feeling of isolation can have an effect not only on mental health, but also on the body’s ability to fight infection. The more that people stay in touch, the less isolated they will feel and the greater chance that you will retain a cohesive workforce which is engaged in delivering the aims of the business. And while you are at it, why not suggest that your people also take the time to pick up the phone to relatives and friends who are isolated at home. Five minutes here, ten minutes there; it’s not much in the life of a business but it could make a difference in the long term.