Last March, within a matter of days, COVID-19 was responsible for many members of the US workforce switching from working in-office to working at home. This threat to health and the economy, as well as sudden restrictions for interacting with colleagues, friends, and family members resulted in a surge in anxiety as a nation. To take a closer look at what was working to keep stress levels in check, and maintain positive wellbeing and productivity, we surveyed thirty participants who began working remotely as a result of COVID-19. Respondents completed an online survey weekly for four weeks late March through April of 2020.
What Actions Help Reduce Stress, and Increase Positive Wellbeing and Productivity?
Traditional self-care behaviors such as getting adequate sleep and eating healthily were linked with reduced stress and increased positive wellbeing, but had no impact on productivity levels. Interestingly, participants who made an effort to connect with colleagues experienced lower stress levels, more positive wellbeing, as well as increased productivity.
Best Techniques for Connecting
We asked respondents to share the techniques that proved to be successful to connect with their coworkers. Here’s what they had to say:
· Communicating via video (versus just e-mail or phone). Sometimes a message is best delivered/discussed “face to face.” It doesn’t have to be via a video conference app, it can be via asynchronous video chat such as Marco Polo, or synchronous video chat like Facetime.
· “Checking in” occasionally. Because people are people, not just work units, it’s important to be intentional to see how people are doing personally.
· Having time to chat with colleagues about non-work topics. This can be at the beginning or ending of a scheduled meeting, a virtual “water cooler” chat, or an “add-on” to an email to inquire about hobbies, family life, etc.
· Sharing funny texts or videos. This adds a personal touch to lighten the mood and can act to be a much needed brain break.
Meaningful Ways Others Could Encourage/Appreciate You
In our research in work relationships, we have learned that individuals tend to have a specific “language” that best speaks appreciation to them. The 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace are: Words of Affirmation, Quality Time, Acts of Service, Tangible Gifts, and (appropriate) Physical Touch. We summarized the responses to the question about meaningful ways that a colleague could encourage or show appreciation to them remotely, here were the results:
Just taking a moment to be intentional is key to connecting with colleagues. It not only means something to them, but also can help your own personal mental health and productivity. These time investments are especially meaningful during a time of crisis, and can help to set the tone for a more positive workplace.
By Natalie Hamrick, Ph.D. and Paul White, Ph.D.
Natalie Hamrick, Ph.D., is a research psychologist with expertise in stress, coping, and health. She is an adjunct professor with Northcentral University, and serves as a project specialist at Appreciation at Work.
Dr. Paul White is a psychologist, speaker, and international leadership trainer who “makes work relationships work.” His company, Appreciation at Work, provides training resources for corporations, medical facilities, schools, nonprofits, government agencies, more than 750 colleges and universities, and in 60-plus countries. He is the coauthor with Dr. Gary Chapman of “The 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace,” which has sold more than 500,000 copies. For more information, visit: https://www.appreciationatwork.com/remote/