WeAreTheCity talks to Amy McKeown about how to support your colleagues during lockdown

woman remote working on video conference call

In my last article Amy McKeown covered how to look after your own health and mental health during this Coronavirus crisis and how, unlike her, you can manage to not lose it with your nearest and dearest.

In this piece Amy McKeown hopes to help you support the people that you work with. It’s such strange times for us all. We need to be helping each other to get through this now and over the big changes in the months to come.


My day job is writing and implementing health and mental health strategies for organisations of all sizes. All of them are now grappling with what they can do to look after people as we slowly return to work and a new, but very different, normal. Here I share 5 top tips to help you look after each other at work.

  1. Communicating well

Figure out ways of having good communication with the people you work with. Think about and ask, what do they need and what works best for their routine (homeschooling children…). In the desperation of business continuity during lock down many people transferred existing working practices to the home to ‘prove’ they were working. I’ve seen a lot of people with a diary full of Zoom calls, all day, every day. Is this needed? Can these calls be shorter? Done on the phone during a walk? Be honest what you and your team need and don’t need.

  1. Types of Communication

It’s hard to replicate all the different types of interactions we have daily in the office. Here are a few different things to try.

Safe space

Putting a Zoom call or conference call in your diary for anyone with concerns or vulnerabilities to dial in. This is a time to discuss feelings, thoughts and non work-related issues with the intention of hearing people and answering them.

Office hours

Hold hours in your diary for people to contact you with quick issues (10 mins or less) a bit like a GP surgery. If someone dials in then lock the call for 10 mins so anyone else knows to come back then. This will clear quick issues and queries. The sort of things that someone would ask you when they stop at your desk. You can blast through quick decisions and points that don’t need full meetings but if left, could cause issues.

Boundaries

State your boundaries on when you are / aren’t available to others and encourage your team to do the same. It’s much harder to be ‘off line’ if everyone knows you are stuck at home. But we all need down time from work and work responsibilities.

Buddy system

Link each team member up with someone else as a buddy. There is a tendency if you are struggling to pull back and disconnect. Buddies can check in each other a few times a week as an extra level of support.

  1. Individual support

Work through a list of your team members and figure out what each will need from you or the organisation going forward in terms of support. Look for those juggling remote working at home with families, vs. those at home and totally isolated. Work with HR to look for anyone with a disclosed health or mental health condition (or disability) who may need extra support. Likewise, anyone you think may be living in a vulnerable or unsafe situation. Use your 1-2-1s to find out what support each individual needs. Figure out how you can best support each individual and do it.

  1. Invite problems not just solutions

By asking your colleagues to come to you with problems or issues they may have before they get big and before they have figured out a solution. With the world upside down at the moment, there are many new things or new problems that will need solving. We are in unchartered territory. By asking for budding problems to be made clear you are expanding your field of knowledge and can work with others to create new solutions. It signals a willingness to be open and to adapt to our new world.

  1. Feedback – timely and corrective, appreciation, personal characteristic

Now, more than ever, others need to feel recognised and valued for what they are doing. Being at home, isolated and without many non-verbal cues can leave people feeling flat.  Taking time each day to give appreciation and thanks will keep others engaged and on board. Likewise, timely, corrective feedback can gently steer people back on course before small issues become big. Much more likely with teams working apart. Open, honest and frequent communication is the only game in town over the next few months.

I hope that the above is useful to you and your organisation. Stay well, stay safe and stay open. We can see this as a challenge, and a great opportunity, for us all to reset. Together we can shape the new world of work. One that is more flexible, collaborative and equal for us all.

I’m aware times are tough for all right now, so I’m now taking bookings for 1hr or ‘Power Hour’ consulting sessions, which are affordable to all business sizes. If I can help, I will. Do drop me an email at [email protected].

About the author

Amy McKeownAmy McKeown is a strategic workplace mental health expert with unique, varied and award-winning implementation experience.

Amy has a huge amount of unique and varied experience writing and implementing strategic mental health policies (and health and wellbeing ones) across workplaces and organisations of all sizes, including a large corporate. Her policies are evidence based, measureable, long term and sustainable. She is considered a thought leader in the UK in terms of mental health and is considered an innovator in mental health policies and solutions. Amy has a distinctive skill set which combines a clinical background (specialising in psychology), expertise in mental health, occupational health, health analytics, and health insurance. She combines the ability to design strategic programmes with the practical ability and experience to then implement them.


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