We all know about the terrible physical consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic. But the mental consequences are just coming to light.
Anxiety about health, money, work and our very future. That is why the World Health Organisation* has highlighted that supporting the mental wellbeing and health of staff is a vital consideration in times of unprecedented change and stress.
Concerns about mental health are heightened as we face being confined to our own four walls, with limited social contact and human interaction. You don't have to refer to the volumes of neuroscience research on this topic to understand that we are social animals that thrive in communities and tribes and seek the reassurance of regular connections and networks. And work is a vital community for so many of us.
For businesses, there is no doubt this period is going to be very tough on your colleagues, your teams and your people and this problem is likely to get much much worse before it gets better.
So what is the solution? What can help your people when they need it most?
The secret is to ensure your colleagues feel and stay connected with each other and their work network. Without this, working from home can be a highly lonely and dispiriting experience.
It is vital that companies think creatively about ways to continue to regularly engage and motivate staff. Quality, versus trivial or cursory, interaction is also crucial.
That is why at New Wave Learning we believe an important way to engage with staff is to continue to support their learning and development journey. Learning new skills that are useful both now, and for the post-crisis future, can be a real motivator in difficult times. Virtual learning that also provides human and peer interaction and support can provide an important connection to the world outside and a vital link to work. And online learning is flexible enough to fit around the new work and personal commitments we are all trying hard to adjust to.
Of course this needs to be put in context. Ongoing learning and development is only one part of the overall support, communication and nurturing that people need in a crisis. But virtual learning can provide important reassurance that companies still value colleagues and want to support them in times of uncertainty. It can provide the sort of valuable connection and engagement that remote workers will increasingly crave and it allows people to do something productive in unproductive times. It can also be used to help managers communicate effectively with, and provide real support to, colleagues in a crisis.
We are all finding out the hard way about the dramatic, unsettling, and potentially devastating, change in the way we work. But we can all learn from this. With the right support our colleagues can emerge stronger, and we can all work stronger together, as things start to return to normal.
*World Health Organisation Report - Mental Health Considerations during COVID-19 Outbreak March 2020.
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