With new COVID containment efforts and restrictions announced each day, we are in a state of uncertainty. From various US states’ shelter in place orders to restaurants and storefronts across the globe halting business to the growing imperative to work from home, lifestyle and workplace changes will continue to impact the country for the foreseeable future.

Business leaders are in a particularly difficult — and influential — position right now. In addition to combatting the unsteady market and managing entirely remote workforces for the first time, leadership must continue to maintain profitability and morale.

Though producing good work and serving client needs remains as critical as ever, the mental health of your workforce must be a priority as well. Corporate leaders who set a strong precedent to support employee wellness will emerge as leaders in their industries once the dust settles.

A recent study by my firm, Nintex, of Gen Z workers found respondents wanted more flexibility in where and how they worked. The situation we're in right now has forced the point: Now and for the foreseeable future, we are all remote workers. As we adjust to this new normal, what are the considerations leaders have to make to ensure work output — and morale — remain high?

Working from home can impact mental health due to isolation, lack of work-life separation and limited accountability to track productivity. But in acknowledging these challenges, leaders can create and implement meaningful improvements. New policies, processes and tools that address employee pain points show your workers you care, while reducing burnout and boosting retention.

Related Article: The Loneliness Epidemic Revisited: A 2020 Update

Fostering Good Mental Health While Working From Home

Consistent communication is important when you’re in your physical office, but it becomes all the more critical when you're not.  

Maybe you don’t have a formal wellness program. Now’s a good time to define one. Or maybe it’s time to examine your current mental health policies and rework them to address this moment in time. For example, though Nintex has a defined wellness program that includes access to the Headspace meditation app for all employees and other region-specific programming, our in-house yoga studio and bubble soccer tournaments are off the table for now. It’s on us to brainstorm alternatives. Maybe we need to consider offering digital lunch and learns, wellness updates, daily step challenges or mindfulness breaks. The important thing is that we don’t let fully remote work sideline wellness opportunities.

If you’re still struggling to catch your breath amid the turmoil, start with a few steps to kickstart your wellness programming.

Normalize the Mental Health Discussion

With Gen Z now making up a considerable percent of the workforce, the paradigm is shifting toward greater awareness and conversations about mental health. While Gen Z may be normalizing the topic, leadership needs to drive company-wide change. Talk with managers about their needs and provide resources to ensure they’re ready to support their own charges.

Learning Opportunities

Related Article: Why Feedback Is Key for Mental Health in the Workplace

People Need More Face Time Than You Think

The notable majority of Gen Zers surveyed by Nintex indicated they prefer weekly, in-person check-ins — but that’s when they’re going into an office. In a fully remote environment, you probably need to rethink the frequency of these check ins to provide more (digital) touchpoints. This could mean managers meeting several times per week — via video chat — not just to check-in about projects, but morale. Meetings help managers offer feedback, assess productivity and most importantly, take a pulse on their frontline workers’ stress levels and health.

Have Tools in Place to Enable Seamless Feedback and Conversation

Many companies with newly dispersed workforces are struggling to rapidly update legacy systems to keep data safe and communication clear.  Whether or not you’re in this position, consider implementing or upgrading software to conduct continuous employee pulse checks, especially as you’re making changes to accommodate the virus. Regularly assessing employee happiness keeps leadership accountable for keeping employees top of mind. Remember, keeping employees happy, engaged and mentally healthy benefits your business.

Related Article: Working Remotely: A Manager's Perspective

Implementing automation can reduce burnout

Automation-driven tools can reduce work exhaustion and stress by eliminating repetitive, mundane and time-consuming tasks. With the amount of global noise permeating every worker’s environment, reducing the volume of tedious responsibilities helps workers prioritize value-adding, strategic components of their work. Especially today, leaders must be careful to champion the human elements of your product, while implementing new technology.

Invest in Your Employees and They'll Invest in You

When a company invests time and money into helping its employees stay mentally and physically well, workers are more likely to stick around longer. Retention and health are critical to your bottom line — you need happy, healthy workers to show up to work each morning and keep providing quality work. By setting employees up to live and work well, your company can become a critical point of stability in an otherwise tumultuous time.

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