By now we have all been home a lot longer than any of us bargained on, and as we are realizing, it is much harder and more time consuming to achieve the same level of productivity compared to being in the office. Sales cycles are more time consuming, decision making takes longer, and current customers face a myriad of new issues that will make them re-evaluate even the most routine business decisions. This means that we all have to give that additional effort and focus so that we can continue to perform both individually and company wide at our past velocity.

Impact of social isolation

On top of these productivity pressures, many of us are feeling the impact of being socially isolated. As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to progress, this problem is not getting any better. Random lunchroom run-ins and desk-side drop-bys are not happening, and loneliness is one of the biggest struggles of teleworking. Many of our friendships and social interactions happen at work. These personal connections are the essence of being human, and today; work is where we often find our tribe. Thus shrinking social distance through connection is more important than ever.

I offer these suggestions to keep your personal connections with co-workers going while working from home:

  • Proactively check-in on each other just to ask how you are doing.
  • Take the first 5-10 minutes of a scheduled meeting and shoot the breeze. This isn’t a practice you’ll find in “Death by Meeting” by Patrick Lencioni and other such books, but extraordinary times call for extraordinary solutions. 
  • Keep learning and share your favorite podcasts, webinars, or books.
  • Listen to music and start a company wide collaborative playlist on Spotify to share your favorite songs.
  • Start different Slack groups aimed at working from home such as: #cooking, #wfh-parents, #daily-dose-of-cute, or #wfh-zone.
  • Find and share other tips for staying connected with working from home in appropriate Slack groups.

Although in many ways we are working harder, we can take care of our mental health at the same time. Balancing the flow of interruptions of dismal news, kids, dogs, cats, spouses and the FedEx delivery person while staying focused on work can be hard for even the best multi-tasker. We all need a break, so that is why I extended a Mental Health Day for each of our HG Insights employees. 

I wanted our employees to each take one day off to do something for themselves (Hiking while we still can? Nexflix binging anyone?). Whatever they did, employees were asked to set aside work for the day. The mental health day did not count against normal PTO or sick time. The process was simple – get approval from their direct manager for the specific day that the employee wanted and then take it. Managers in turn were asked to respect the mental health day by not texting, emailing or Slacking the employee who was taking their day off. 

By checking in and setting up spaces for us to connect, we can all get through this together. We are working harder and universally in unfamiliar territory, but we can take care of our mental health at the same time. Throughout this pandemic and especially during this Mental Health Awareness Month, wishing everyone continued health, mental as well as physical.

About Mental Health Month 

Since 1949, Mental Health America and their affiliates across the country have led the observance of May as the Mental Health Month. Recognizing this month is important because while 1 in 5 people will experience a mental illness during their lifetime, everyone faces challenges that impact their mental health. Given current circumstances, it’s more important than ever to make your mental health a priority by connecting with those around you and shrinking the social distance.