At Career Contacts, we often write blogs based on the conversations we are having with hiring managers and candidates.
Top of mind for candidates going back into the office lately is around how to ensure they are keeping safe (and leadership is looking to ensure they are doing their part too).
This week, we wanted to share our top 5 most rewarding ways to stay safe in your office environment during the pandemic. Although they may seem like easy things to do, they hold a much deeper value than people may assume.
Remember to PLEASE stay home if you are experiencing any symptoms of COVID-19, no matter how small!
This is by far the most important step when practicing safe living during this time. This will effectively flatten the curve as well as not only protect you, your loved ones and your bubble, but it also protects all those you may encounter! Think of it as you actively protecting so many people by simply being cautious. No matter how small or insignificant your symptoms may be, it is safer for us all if you stay home. Be sure to express your concern to your employer and bubble, and proceed to dedicate a few days to your health! In BC, we are fortunate to have easy access to testing should your medical advisor suggest it, we recommend taking their recommendations seriously. Get your necessary essentials delivered or dropped off by a member of your bubble and take your few days of quarantine with a peace of mind. After the lockdown, most roles are finding ways to function from home. If this isn’t possible, this is what sick days are for.
Splurge on a mask you LOVE!
It’s true, masks really do prevent the spread of COVID-19! While masks may not have been a common essential in our past, they most certainly are now. They are now required in most, if not all stores and businesses, and without wearing one you are putting yourself and your bubble at risk of exposure. You are more likely to remember, use and enjoy your facemask if you dedicate 20 minutes to surfing the web to find a design, fabric, or function of mask that suits your personal needs. A handpicked mask is also a great opportunity to support brands you love and show a bit of personality in a way we haven’t utilized before. Kick the disposable masks to the curb and spend a little extra on one you are happy wearing regularly! Whether it be in the elevators, to the coffee shop, or even to a team meeting, be sure to bring your reusable mask to all personal and work efforts outside your home (this will also actively prevent more single use waste entering our oceans and landfills!).
PRO TIP: Don’t forget to handle your masks appropriately and wash them as needed.
(spotted: A few of our HR Consultants, Pam and Reena, staying safe while on site)
Remain tidy and distanced while in office
When entering your office environment, be sure to check for symptoms prior to arriving and don’t forget your mask! As COVID-19 protocols are in full swing, this is a time to develop new personal habits and reminders in efforts to reduce the spread. Once entering the office, you must remember to sanitize and be aware of your surroundings. For example, if a coworker is in the common spaces, you should not be. Be sure to communicate to your co-workers that the friendliest thing they can do when communicating with you is ensuring their distance and practicing safe living at (and outside of) work. When communicating, be sure to emphasize your gratitude and be kind – these are hard times for everyone. In regard to your workspace, have your belongings close to you and away from others to avoid cross contaminating as well as have disinfectant wipes available nearby for all your equipment and materials for end of day sanitization.
PRO TIP: Minimize the materials and things you have surrounding you is a great way to eliminate potential contamination; it can reduce clutter which fosters organization and ultimately leaves you with more space and less stress!
Keep your bubble small and well connected
Your bubble; your people! These are your cheerleaders, loved ones and best friends. They are your chosen support system, and you are theirs. As this is an uncertain time for everyone in the world right now, it’s important that we each do our part to support one another the best way we can; through distancing. With fall, winter, and flu season in view, it is especially important to be practicing safe living. When organizing your bubble, it is important to remember that every individual, family, and household will be under different circumstances. For the people you live with such as immediate family, a partner or roommates, there is no need for any restrictions on physical contact.
When considering who you socialize with outside of your household, it is important to remember that the recommended size is six individuals per bubble. This is being called your “Safe Six” and means a group of six friends or extended family members that is consistently involved with one another. These individuals may breach the 2 meter physical distance however, no physical contact should be practiced to ensure safety to all parties. This is a great way to refocus on some people who hold a special place in your heart, or a guilt free excuse to minimize your surface level relationships and devote time to those you can count on for support throughout the pandemic.
Monitor your mental health
Last but certainly not least, please do not forget to monitor your mental health and advocate for yourself. COVID-19 has had an incredible impact on people worldwide and it is important to know you are not alone and there is support available to you from both your peers and the government. Be sure to indulge in some self-care, physical activity or a virtual happy hour with friends to ensure you are heard and supported in whichever way you may need. A hot bath, long walk and phone calls with loved ones can work wonders on your mindset! When creating your bubble it’s important to compile those you feel comfortable confiding in, so you may support one another when need be. It is okay to feel overwhelmed or anxious by the uncertainty the COVID-19 outbreak has created. It’s important to remember that mental health is just as important as physical health, and to take measures to support mental well-being.
Here are some resources that can assist with maintaining mental health in the workplace during this time.
If you are an employer interested in learning more about how to ensure your office is a safe space for employees, please reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Checking in with your teams is really about starting from a place of authenticity, genuine care and compassion.
As many companies feel the uncertainty of the world and how their teams are doing, it is so important to take the time to check in with your teams to determine how they are coping, what they need, and how you can support. The worst thing we can do as leadership is to make assumption.
One employees' paradise is another employees' battleground.
After months of supporting our clients and teams both onsite and remotely, we worked together to come up with 5 tips on how to effectively check in with your teams:
1. Be proactive
When approaching your employees, the number one thing we would tell you, is that employees feel most supported when they don’t need the help, but know it’s available if and when they do.
This means that you don't wait for the forest to burn down, you reach out before the kindle even begins.
This holds true for everyone on the team; from your internal and external teams, remote and onsite, and the most junior employees right through to c-suite. This is the time to make everyone feel cared for and supported; contractors and employees alike.
The more you bring people together, the stronger your team will be.
2. Go beyond health & safety
With COVID creating a new reality, we are often focused on the health and safety of the teams. Career Contacts has been supporting a number of clients with ensuring that they are keeping their teams safe. Working with WorkSafeBC guidelines, we are supporting training, policies and practices, and constantly performing audits and encouraging dialogue. We are putting up signs, barriers, sanitizer and creating space for employees to feel safe while at work.
We value the health and safety of all employees but know that this goes far beyond COVID.
Through COVID, we have had discussions around:
- Mental Health
- Child and other dependent support
- Ability and access to working from home
- Building community
- and on and on
For example, at the beginning of COVID, construction companies continued to do the work; learning as they went with the new COVID safety guidelines.
Career Contacts has had the opportunity of supporting in a number of ways to ensure that our temporary staff were feeling safe. At the beginning of each assignment, a member of our team would go onsite to check in and make sure the teams felt comfortable to raise any concerns. We also provided them with our personal numbers so they could text us throughout the day if they need to. What it felt like we were doing was ensuring social distancing, mask wearing and hand washing. What we were really doing was making ourselves available; valuing their needs over our time and providing them with assurances that we cared (because we genuinely did, and do).
Did you know that when discussing the benefits and perks of joining organizations, even above the ability to work from home, salary, benefits and vacation, is flexibility?
What does that me to us?
That people want to be treated with respect, and trust. They are adults, who have been given a list of roles and responsibilities, and want to be able to have some flexibility on how they execute against instructions.
It’s not just about the flexibility of working hours, but also in how they structure the day, how they manage their calendars, what technology they can add to create value, what process they use to reach their goals and targets etc.
4. Get out of the office/zoom
Moving employees away from their regular “office” environment, allows them to shift out of work mode, and know that the conversation is about them as people first, employees second.
We often encourage conversations that are lighter, that may even just be an opportunity to make genuine connections and build meaningful relationships that do not place all the value on what they do within the organization. If you have an office space that can be used, that’s a great way to connect physically. If not, meeting outside for a distanced walk, or even hoping on a different social platform so there is a different feel.
5. Be open yourself
As part of the leadership team, I am comfortable talking about my struggles, my insecurities, as much as I am talking about my goals and dreams. Not everything has to be about what isn’t working; sometimes it’s just about sharing where you want to see things moving, and ensuring that you are supporting that journey the best way you can.
We recently had a senior level executive assistant that was working with a client of ours for 20+ years who was facing a career dilemma. During COVID, she had a realization that she had been able to spend more time with her hobbies and creative outlets; one of which was writing.
After some discussion, we were able to approach the marketing department where she now works, and create a hybrid opportunity for her to create some news letter content that allowed her to flex her creative muscles, while still being able to continue to stay gainfully employed with her existing team.
The moral of this blog? Treat your people are whole people. Learn about what makes them happy at work, what they need to feel fulfilled, how they like to be appreciated, communicated with etc. Then, take the time to make a meaningful change in the way you work together!
Looking for some support in building out your communication and employee relations plans? Reach out to us at Career Contacts and one of our HR Consultants would be happy to provide you with an overall audit and ideation session.
Anxiety is essentially our brain’s response to imminent danger; for someone with an anxiety disorder that signal functions less like a motion light and more like a lighthouse. But in a time like this where that signal is firing for so many people all around the planet, knowing how to support your team members and loved ones with already present anxiety issues is more important than ever.
Here are a few key things to keep in mind when speaking to someone struggling with anxiety:
Don’t downplay their feelings…
Everyone is entitled to how they are feeling. Saying things like “don’t get worked up,” “everyone feels like this,” and “it really isn’t a big deal,” while coming from a place of helpfulness can have the opposite effect. In this global climate, suggesting that being fearful is overreacting can cause their anxiety to shift to worrying that you may not be taking the appropriate precautions which just adds more things to the list of worries on their mind. Also, it may be second nature to suggest that it is not a unique feeling and attempt to offer perspective with “at least…” statements but that can make it seem like their anxiety is not as valid as someone else’s, which can cause feelings of guilt.
…but don’t feed into them
Sometimes talking about their feelings is the only way for someone to process them but put effort into not letting the entire conversation be driven by anxiety. Offer your compassion and interest with statements like, “what could I do to help you right now” or “would you like me to offer advice or do you just need someone to listen.” Once the conversation is settling, change the subject to something more lighthearted by asking a simple question like, “I am running out of things to watch, have you watched any great shows lately that I should check out?”, something that will shift the thought process away from stress. It is important to try to end the call on a lighter topic so that they are not hanging up only to sit with their anxiety again, especially in a time where there is not much else going on to distract us.
If this person is a team member and you have only been connecting during work hours about work-related things, remember that everyone in some way or another is struggling right now and probably feeling lonely. So, showing that you care about them as a person separate from work can be impactful. Touch base by simply sending a text just to check in, share a funny Instagram post that made you think of them, or even give them a casual call to chat and show you care.
If you have a friend that you maybe haven’t connected with in a while use this time as an opportunity. How many times do we say, “I need to call this person” and then get busy with life or can never connect with them because of opposite schedules? This is the perfect time to reconnect and let someone know you are thinking about them and there for them during this challenging time.
If you are busy juggling kids, family, and work during this time and are not available for a phone check in often, still keep in touch and offer something to keep them busy like a show recommendation, a Spotify playlist you made for them, or a great eBook they could download. Small gestures and small distractions will be very helpful.
Keep your routine
Nearly everyone is functioning on a new routine right now, try to maintain elements of your old routine as much as possible. If you have a team that always eats lunch together on Monday, do a Zoom lunch. If you always go to brunch with your friend on Saturday, turn on FaceTime and chat with each other while you make brunch from home. Keeping as much normalcy as possible while also doing your part to keep yourself and everyone else safe will be beneficial for the mental health of everyone involved.
Make a new routine
If you have something in your routine that really cannot be replicated virtually, like a weekly hockey game or bar trivia, get creative and stay connected during that time anyway. The less time we have idle to feel alone, the less time we will have to ruminate on our anxieties. Have an online board game night with those old Yahoo! Games everyone used to play before iPhones, watch a YouTube drawing tutorial and find out who is the better artist, just do something new and fun together until you can actually be together again.
You may try to maintain your routines, say all the right things, and it might not feel like it is helping. You may suggest virtual activities in lieu of the physical ones and you may get turned down. Be patient and be flexible. This is a new journey for everyone, and everyone is going to approach it differently. Don’t get angry or stop reaching out to your friends who pull away. Continue to check in and be okay with no response, just continue to make it clear that you care and are here for them. If one of your team members would rather skip the virtual lunch to take a nap, let them. This whole process is exhausting for everyone, especially those with anxiety disorders.
Everyone is going to approach this differently. If they are being responsible, social distancing, and protecting themselves and others, everything else is their own prerogative. Just be understanding and judgement free.
The most important thing is to remember that everyone is struggling right now, and to pay extra care to the people we know were struggling before. The most valuable thing that any of us can do right now, aside from staying home, is to continue to foster our connections and stay united even in our physical isolation.
If you have any questions about team building and employee support, please reach out to