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Supporting your team in “ping-a-gedden”.

Article by Alex Hind, CEO and Co-founder - Heka.

Battling the “ping-demic” is best done through kindness and support. At this tumultuous time, here are three ways your business should be catering to self-isolating employees and prioritising their wellbeing.

As the country emerges from the worst of the pandemic, the ping-demic presents a new challenge to businesses. This resulting impact of the NHS track and trace app, is frustrating employees and putting additional workload on already stretched teams.

The “ping-demic” is an infuriating yet necessary reality for UK businesses this summer, with companies taking the brunt of the frustration with their business recovery stunted by these latest measures. Recent figures show that as many as half a million employees a week have been advised to self isolate in the UK alone, throwing industries like retail, manufacturing and hospitality into a state of disarray. 

As businesses wrestle with the disruption of the “ping-demic” and the convoluted government guidance provided on the matter, additional pressures are placed on employees. These come not only in terms of workload, but more significantly, in the emotional toll this has on frustrated workers trying to return to normality after a serious period of destabilisation. 

With the personal and professional strains of the Covid pandemic still fresh in people’s minds and impacting the nation’s mental health as a whole, it’s never been more important for businesses to ensure their employees feel listened to and valued

Here are three tips on how you can best support your employees if they need to self-isolate. 

Step 1 – Pay additional attention to those who are isolating
It’s crucial to ensure employees feel safe at work and that their well-being is your top priority as a business. Throughout the pandemic companies who foster a culture of kindness tend to fare better, with happier, healthier employees showing much higher rates of engagement and productivity overall. 

If employees are “pinged” by the app and strongly advised to self-isolate, it’s important to respect their boundaries when it comes to feeling safe and responsible for the safety of others in their team. Show your support by taking the time to regularly touch base, even send them a personalised gift bag of wellness products to help them pass the time and feel that you are there for them. We recommend essential oils, tea’s or plants to help them take time for themselves and relax whilst stuck at home. 

It’s likely that isolation in this way will remain a part of all of our working lives for some time, so weaving in allowances for this into the fabric of your company policies could help mitigate employees feeling disgruntled or frustrated by this reality. Offering “freedom days” to isolating members once their time is up also helps ensure they feel fulfilled and refreshed, ready to come back to work without feeling like their personal life has to suffer. 

Step 2 – Use company culture to embrace inclusivity
A culture of togetherness can help support team members who are struggling, consolidate group goals and has been shown to improve employee retention in the long run, with 96% of employees citing empathy as an important way to increase staff retention. 

With teams fragmented across WFH, in the office or a combination of both, regular group exercises, company gatherings and workshops help to enhance skills and encourage teams to share their experiences and communicate better. It’s worth investing time, effort and money into fun activities that will alleviate stress and encourage bonding within teams, like chocolate-making or watercolour classes, with a multitude of at-home-kits readily available. These kinds of activities bring everyone together, helping each team member to feel a part of something larger. However, it’s crucial to ensure everyone has the same access to the right equipment to take part. So, ensure your teams have access to the equipment they need, like headphones and laptops, to make sure no one feels left out. 

 Step 3 – Loyalty can mean the world
Even over a turbulent 2020, the UK recruitment industry took in a record £38.9 billion in revenue, with much of this expenditure coming in the form of temp and contract work for SMEs. Loyal employees pay off, with better business growth linked to employees feeling settled and driven enough to channel their strengths and skills at work. 

The “ping-demic” has highlighted how the pastoral care of employees – something formerly seen as an added bonus, an element of the business which isn’t perceived to have a direct impact on profit – has become a key element of business recovery and growth following the covid pandemic. Amid the so-called “Great Resignation” of 2021, building a relationship with your employees and understanding their needs, be them health related, mental health or emotional, will help you understand where their passions and motivations lie. The goal is to  ultimately help them to feel better supported, more fulfilled at work and fully accounted for at a time where teams are detached from one another. 

It’s crucial to reach out to team members who are self-isolating in case they encounter any issues, feelings of frustration or even depression. Anticipating these kinds of issues or negative experiences will allow you to catch them early on and protect your employees, whilst also building trust and increasing staff retention. In the short term, it’s best to overcommunicte with isolated staff to ensure you understand their needs fully, perhaps sending them fancy food packages from the team so they don’t feel overlooked, or recommending mindfulness tools to help them adjust to spending more time away from their colleagues. In the long run, physical exercise and classes can have a huge impact on health, happiness and wellbeing, with services like in-office or online classes easy to incorporate into your business week. 

An economy of kindness
There is a theory that an economy of kindness will help businesses climb out of the economic rut left by the pandemic. In an effort to help staff deal with the turmoil of the “ping-demic”, kindness, empathy and meaningful gestures can help to ensure each staff member feels valued, especially when isolating or experiencing an unusually busy period at work. Taking the time to make each team member feel valued and ensure their professional needs are taken care of, will help your team to emerge from the worst of the pandemic feeling supported in the right way for them. 

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