Lockdown 2.0: how to support your team’s mental health and productivity
No-one wants another lockdown, but the experience in Melbourne and Auckland has shown how easily it can happen.
- In the event of another lockdown, it’s vital to check in on your team’s mental health.
- IT security is a major priority when staff are working from home.
- It’s important to set clear targets and budgets while in lockdown, to give everyone focus and a sense of purpose.
By Alexandra Cain
Melbourne and Auckland’s swift re-entry into lockdown brought home how quickly major cities can find themselves overwhelmed by a COVID 19 second wave. It’s important to be prepared for such an event.
Katie Bryan is the founder and CEO of Melbourne-based accounting and business advisory firm Propeller Advisory. Currently, its staff are all working from home in lockdown and Bryan’s team is making the most of technologies such as Slack, Microsoft Teams and Skype to stay in touch.
IT security is a major priority when staff are working remotely and Bryan uses Practice Protect to manage network integrity. Team members have one password for the portal, which gives them access to all the other apps. It also restricts logins to certain times and IP addresses.
“Staff can't go over to a friend's house, print documents and accidentally leave them behind because they can't access the portal from their friend's place,” explains Bryan.
Technology has been an area of particular focus during the pandemic, including ensuring that employees’ home-office equipment is ergonomically correct. Bryan’s staff use apps such as Ergonomics, which provides an assessment of the suitability of a user’s desk set-up.
“Our staff have also been really resourceful if office equipment has been in short supply, using wireless keyboards and sitting laptops on books to make sure they are maintaining good posture at home,” says Bryan.
It’s been important for Bryan to set clear targets and budgets for each staff member to follow while in lockdown, to give everyone focus and a sense of purpose.
“The team is excited and motivated by growth and achieving their individual billing targets and the team’s billing target. This encourages everyone to work together and communicate effectively.”
The Propeller team checks its progress against targets at daily huddles and weekly tactical meetings, which are also used to discuss workflow. “That way, managers can talk to employees who need some help, rather than only realising they have fallen behind at the end of the month.”
Leadership specialist Wendy Born, author of Raising Leaders, says taking an approach such as Bryan’s is critical for keeping businesses on track during the pandemic.
“We look for consistency in times of uncertainty,” she says, adding it makes sense for employees to continue weekly team meetings in lockdown, albeit virtually, to reduce anxiety.
Supporting mental health
Katie Bryan’s business implemented a staff-survey tool called Officevibe to check in on how its workers are feeling. It uncovered a substantial drop in team happiness when the second Melbourne lockdown started. Armed with this information, she has been able to take steps to improve morale. Even simple things, such as making fun posts in Slack channels, can make a difference.
Encouraging people to take breaks while working from home has also been an important part of maintaining good mental health.
“Burnout is a massive issue for our industry at the moment, managing all the work around stimulus payments and trying to assist clients through a really tough time. We encourage staff to put their computer away and take some time for themselves,” says Bryan.
“Burnout is a massive issue for our industry at the moment. We encourage staff to put their computer away and take some time for themselves.”
“Their peers can’t contact them while they are having a break, so they won't receive messages through Slack or emails from colleagues. I’ve also given them an extra day of leave, so they can take a Friday off, have a long weekend to rest and recover and come back feeling refreshed and ready to tackle the next busy period.”
Wendy Born recommends leaders check in with each team member at least once a week.
“Talk openly about how you are feeling and any difficulty you may be experiencing and always offer your Employee Assistance Program to those who may find isolation challenging,” she says. “This reassures employees that they are not alone.”
Find out more:
CA has a wide range of resources that accountants can use to support good mental health. Check out our Mental Health First Aid Guide and the Smiling Mind app, developed with MYOB, to encourage more mindfulness, as well as Beyond Blue's dedicated service, for some great ideas to keep your team in tip-top shape through this challenging time.
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