When I wrote about our move to working from home in the last issue (Winter, Part 1), our entire company had been working from home since the spring of 2020. I reported everything was going well as far as our operations and technology. I shared some of the technologies, applications, and management practices we were using to maintain a successful operation. We continue to have success in those areas.
There was, and still is, one major area we are keeping an eye on as we come up on a year of working from home – the mental health of our staff. In the previous article, I mentioned that for 40% of our staff, working from home was familiar territory, they had been doing it, and doing it successfully, for years. For 60% of our staff, this was new territory.
For those of us that were new to this, we saw it as temporary. I have personally had many Zoom calls with people both in and outside our company where the person on the other side of the camera was set up to work at the kitchen table, or the living room, or the back patio. We were all doing our best to get work done from our homes. In fact, those of us making the move had to make a distinction between telecommuting and “working from home”. We were having a very different experience than those who had dedicated office space and routines for telecommuting.
There have been various reports on the impact COVID-19 and working from home has had on the mental health of our nation. Many reports, including reports from the CDC, show that somewhere between 40% and 55% of adults are struggling with mental health and substance abuse issues. We have done our own internal surveys and there has been a rise in loneliness and feelings of being disconnected. While I would in no way insinuate that we have solved the challenge, we have had some successes with resources we have made available to our staff.
One of the areas we identified and communicated early on is our Employee Assistance Program which is a great resource for employees with access to counseling and therapy among other things. We have a Learning Management System that makes continuing education available to our staff, many of whom are taking full advantage of the offering. We continue to stay connected by using video in most of our communications. We are also continuing the practice of holding regular team building events, many of which are virtual. We are encouraging our team members to take regular breaks, have a separate and dedicated workspace, and to try their best to follow a regular work routine. We are also working closely with the Center for Brain Health in Dallas, to provide regular virtual workshops for all employees. These workshops are provided by brain health professionals and include topics around stress management, resilience, goal setting, and emotional regulation.
Follow-up surveys and conversations indicate that all these resources and practices are having a positive impact. One final area we are working on presently is wellness, which for us is including healthy eating habits and exercise.
One thing I have learned through this process is the strength of the human spirit. We continue to find ways to hold on to the most important things in life. Though we have our challenges, we continue to see the best of us adapting, helping others, and serving in ways that make things better for everyone. We will persevere.