As we begin our fifth week of isolation, many businesses have manged to iron out the initial IT problems and we are beginning to settle into a new sense of normal.

On Wednesday last week Emily Butson and I virtually attended a fantastic Bisnow webinar featuring Rachel Gutter and Richard Upton focusing on what organisations can do to help their employees and businesses cope with this difficult time. 

Both speakers hold senior roles within their organisations and are responsible for leading teams of over 70 people. They offered a great insight into their experiences and helpful suggestions to use within our own teams centring around how to help employees colleagues at this time.

Everyone’s experience of self-isolating is different 

The speakers highlighted that it is important to appreciate that everyone’s experience of self-isolation is completely different. Some colleagues have children, some have elderly relatives to care for and others live in small spaces with no garden to relax in. Many employees reported to the speakers that on top of these challenges they were also concerned about their mental health.

Communication is key 

The key to help combat these worries is through frequent communication via both formal and informal channels. Both panellists have increased the number of team meetings as well as catching up with their team on a one to one basis. Using programs such as zoom or skype allow us facetime with colleagues in a far more personal way than a phone call. It was suggested that sending out emails to the whole team at the end of the day keeps teams engaged and connected. Circulating suggestions for workout classes, healthy recipes and tips about how to look after your mental wellbeing such as using meditation apps were also thought to be helpful for their team.

Making Changes at Maples 

This is something that we realised at Maples from the beginning of the current crisis and fortunately, we were already employing many strategies discussed in the webinar. As soon as team members started to work from home, a What’s app group was created to keep us connected. The group quickly became a positive resource for all, with people frequently sharing funny content found online or sharing their good news, such as the happy arrival of 3 Maples babies during lockdown. At Maples we have had a wellbeing committee in place for a while now. The group has been rising to meet these new challenges by sharing tips to keep us all healthy during this difficult time such as details of home workouts  and circulating advice on best practices when home working.

Our Managing Partner, Chris Wilkinson has been circulating a daily email which is helping to cheer us all up and to feel connected. Something else that worked really well at Maples was our Zoom drinks event where we connected over zoom to share a ‘virtual cheers’. We all found that seeing our team mates on screen really helped to bring us all together and combat the feeling of isolation.

We are only human 

This crisis has shown us more than ever that we are only human, we all have our own vulnerabilities. The speakers encouraged team leaders to show their vulnerabilities and talk openly about their experiences to allow those struggling to come forward and ask for help. Using video calling allows us to see much more of a colleague’s life than we may have been permitted before, their living room, their children and (hopefully) one or two cute pets! Perhaps after this crisis we will all feel more connected in our teams.

Life after coronavirus 

The panellists thought that going forward employers will place a greater emphasis on health and wellbeing in the workplace. With working from home now becoming a cemented practice in many offices, this will allow greater flexibility and essentially will encourage people to stay at home when they are ill.