The COVID-19 pandemic will undoubtedly become one of the defining moments of our lifetimes. The way we have banded together to combat the crisis has been inspiring on so many levels. Hoarding toilet paper on the other hand, well …

It’s important for organizations to understand that being flexible in uncertain times is of the utmost importance to ensure workers stay healthy and can prioritize properly to maintain productivity—and positivity—while managing change.

Of course, Management of Change has traditionally been focused on operations at the plant itself—faulty materials, defects, abnormal operating environments, etc., but this is different. Many organizations that are not accustomed to a total telecommuting structure will have to adapt and adapt quickly.

1. Keep Them Healthy

Companies’ No. 1 priority during a pandemic is ensuring the health, safety and well-being of workers and their families. Many areas have already implemented shelter in place orders, including lockdowns in countries such as ItalySpain and France (one citizen even ran a marathon—yes, a marathon—going back and forth on his balcony), but there are many germ-eliminating tips that you can share with your workers to keep their homes safe.

Make sure employees are following any guidance, updates and recommendations from organizations like the World Health Organization, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the European Centre for Disease Control and Prevention to help flatten the curve to ensure the health and safety of millions of people. All of Sphera’s employees are currently working from home and receiving regular updates from human resources as the situation remains fluid. It is important to communicate not only business-related messaging with employees but also pertinent information to ensure they are receiving updates on how they can keep themselves and their families healthy.

Also, just like the marathon man showed, it’s important to stay active even when you’re working from home. Cheapism.com has some links to some good buys on exercise equipment if you need something, and CNBC has a good list of workout apps to keep active while at home.

2. Mental Health Is Just as Important

Making sure workers are staying healthy includes mental health as well. Most people are not accustomed to staying in their homes for long stretches like this. Boston.com has a great list of video board games like “Catan,” “Ticket to Ride” and “Words With Friends” that you can recommend to your employees to play during lunch breaks or after-hours to help maintain camaraderie and social interaction. And there are great virtual tools like Google Hangout, Skype or Zoom to help colleagues stay connected.

It’s also important to practice social distancing, but suggest your workers go out for a walk around their neighborhoods to get some fresh air while maintaining a safe distance from other passersby. Fast Company has a great list of tips as well in a recent article, including “creating a routine,” “managing your information intake” and “recognizing your needs.” Of course, if a worker needs to talk to someone, many insurance plans do offer Employee Assistance Programs, which offer free, confidential counseling. There are also a lot of great resources that employees can find online, including this list from the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

“Leaders are the culture setters within organizations—an even more critical role in our new virtual workforce,” wrote Kelly Greenwood, the founder and CEO of Mind Share Partners, a not-for-profit that focuses on workplace mental health, in Forbes. “It’s on us to help pave the way for our teams.”

Exactly.

3. Keep Up the Good Work

Some employers tend to think that a work-from-home situation leads to a drop in productivity. Studies have shown that is not true. Airtasker, a “gig” economy platform surveyed 1,004 full-time employees last year and found that remote workers worked 21.9 days a month compared with 20.5 days for in-office workers, which translates to an additional 16.8 days per year.

Remote workers do take longer breaks—22 minutes on average vs. 18 for in-office workers—but people working from home log, on average, 27 “unproductive” minutes per day vs. 37 for in-office workers. Yes, there tends to be distractions at home, especially with kids and pets seeking workers’ attention, so 61% of remote workers said it was easy to focus during the workday vs. 71% for in-office colleagues.

That’s why it’s important for employers to be understanding if work schedules need to change to accommodate the current circumstances. Aircall, a cloud-based phone system company, has a great list of tips on how employees can stay productive while working at home, including sticking to a schedule, setting priorities and using the proper tools (comfort does help!).

4. How Software Can Help

Sphera’s mission is to create a safer, more sustainable and productive world. To that end, Sphera offers its customers Health and Safety Management tools that can help deal with the COVID-19 pandemic or any other virus outbreak for that matter.

Sphera’s Incident Management module, allows companies to capture information about when an employee has been exposed to or been diagnosed with COVID-19 or another virus. In response to COVID-19, a new feature of our Risk Assessment module will be deployed shortly to help companies survey the well-being and productivity of remote workers.  Clients can use Sphera’s Audit module, to create new checklists to understand facility-readiness against guidance from sources such as the WHO, and the European and U.S. CDCs. Companies can also use Advanced Risk Assessment and Desktop Pro to assess business continuity and/or security risk from COVID-19.

5. Stay Positive

We know things can seem bleak, but that’s even more of a reason to maintain positivity. For instance, Spherions took part in a virtual happy hour recently and have been staying connected and sharing information on Yammer. People need social interaction. We also love this list from Museum Hack on “13 Creative Virtual Team Building Activities for Remote Teams.” Check it out and let us know what you’re doing to help employees stay positive. Use the hashtag #SpheraPositiveAtHome on social media.

It’s a cliché, but we’re all in this together, and we will get through this together. Stay safe everyone!

Sphera Culture Team

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