Maintaining mental health and company culture during the pandemic

So, how are you doing?

We usually address this question on the HyAlto blog from the perspective of how well an MSP’s business is doing and where its growth opportunities lie in a hybrid cloud world.

But the past seven months have not been business as usual for any of us. Regardless of the pressures the pandemic has put on a business, or because of them, we can’t afford to ignore the toll on our mental health.

We are based in Canada’s capital of Ottawa. Our community’s flagship mental health organization, the Royal Ottawa Mental Health Centre, has found that rates of anxiety and depression have soared since the beginning of the pandemic. This extends to those of us who did not already suffer from a mental health challenge before.

“Even in the ‘Average Joe,’ if you want to call them that, the pandemic has taken a really serious toll,” Rébecca Robillard, director of clinical sleep research at The Royal and author of the study, told local media. “Even for those without pre-existing mental disorders, half of them had major signs of depression and a third had signs of anxiety disorder.”

The stress of the pandemic can obviously have a negative impact without reaching the point of a clinical diagnosis of anxiety or depression. It’s enough that it can sap creativity, productivity and your usual good nature.

One of the big questions right now in the world of work is the fate of the typical office. Marquee tech companies and others have declared work from home will be their new normal, even beyond the pandemic. But we are by nature social creatures. While remote work may become more common, it’s unlikely to become the primary way that we work.

To this point, news website Axios recently reported an analysis from multinational investment bank Barclays. It found that only 10 per cent of Americans actually want to work remotely all the time. We expect people feel this way in Europe and elsewhere, too.

Just like the cloud, it seems, how we work will be a hybrid of two solitudes because that’s what most of us need to maintain our mental health. Over at CHANNELe2e, there is a useful article that offers 12 Ways to Nurture Mental Health and Company Culture During the Pandemic.

Here at HyAlto, it’s been important for our team to maintain the channels of communication and play hard whenever possible – and do so safely, of course.

From a management perspective, it’s good to see that the time which people would have otherwise lost to a commute can now be used to provide more flexibility in the workday and still maintain productivity. Slack has become our business communication platform of choice to keep everyone engaged and connected with one another. The downside is that no such tool can replace the spontaneity of being together in an office for a quick impromptu huddle.

Then there is what has been dubbed the “Quarantine 15” – the extra weight gained from stress eating, stress baking and gym closures. Our team is mostly developers who have to be pried from their keyboards at the best of times. As the pandemic began to take its toll on waistlines, our team embarked on a competitive fitness challenge. A daily quota of push-ups soon expanded to include squats, jumping jacks and other activities. A betting pool may have been involved. This was great for morale and mental health, as well as physical health.

We also instituted a Happy Hour on Friday afternoons – a casual video call where non-shop talk and cocktails of choice were welcome.

As shutdown measures eased and the summer weather arrived, it was also important to see everyone on the team use their vacation time to take a break. Early in the summer, many members of our team were inclined to just keep working since their vacation and travel options were limited. Our advice to managers, besides making sure to take time for themselves, is to gently but firmly ensure staff take the time that is due to them, as well. We all need a break, even if only to the backyard.

Stress manifests in different ways for different people. The signs are not always obvious. It’s on all of us to look out for one another – recognize when members of your team need help or a break and when you do, too.

Stay well and be kind.

Recommended Posts