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Ways Utah Businesses can help their stay-at-home employees

When office doors closed as the coronavirus response began to take shape, much of the country’s non-essential workforce became remote employees practically overnight. Thankfully, technology is available to keep businesses operational, but for workers who were used to reporting to a central location to be productive, the challenge of working from home introduced a very real level of stress. Employees everywhere had to adjust to working in their living space and many also had to balance a work day with helping their children with school work.

Kevin Ricklefs, chief culture officer for CHG Healthcare shared his company’s experience on the Utah Business website. You’ll likely recognize the struggles he and his fellow employees associate with the sudden shift to remote work, including lack of an internet connection, dealing with social isolation and even challenges related to mental health.

Ricklefs shared what CHG has done to help their employees make the switch to a remote work environment and also to adjust in their personal lives to make room for the clash of professional life and home life responsibilities.

Finding those connections to make things better

Ricklefs writes that one thing companies should not be doing during this time is cutting costs when it comes to healthcare benefits. Such a decision could have a much more negative impact in the future.

“In times of crisis, smart companies should actually place more emphasis on health — especially mental health,” Ricklefs said. “If your employees are struggling with emotional wellness, encourage them to use mental health counseling. Also, model the importance of getting away from the computer and into fresh air. Recommend regular short breaks to interact with family members, take a walk or get some exercise.”

Finding ways to nurture social connections is also an important part of keeping employees safe and healthy. Computer-oriented social time may not be quite the same as face-to-face interactions, but they allow for the communication to still exist.

One idea Ricklefs shared is to schedule “water cooler time,” or breaks with employees so they can still have time together to interact as they did when they were in the same space. You’d never imagine a physical work environment where employees had no opportunities to interact and have non-work discussions, so foster and encourage creative communication.

“The most important rule is that these meetings can’t be about work,” he advised. “Instead, these moments are a chance to decompress and recharge. It’s an important way to counteract the stress caused by the pandemic.”

He also offers some ideas to spice up the regular online meeting scene, including changing background images, happy hours, icebreakers and sharing slices of life such as family photos or talking about hobbies that co-workers may not know about. And don’t skimp on recognition. It’s important now more than ever to thank your employees for a job well done. Even a personalized letter sent through snail mail letting an employee or colleague know you appreciate them can go a long way.

Communication is still important, now more than ever

It’s crucial that business leaders continue to be open and honest with their employees about the ways coronavirus is impact business and be transparent about challenges and possible outcomes. Ricklefs suggests that over-communicating is better at this juncture, even if the news is grim. Balance messages with information about ways leadership is addressing concerns and always let employees know support is available if needed.

“That communication can come in whatever form makes the most sense for the company,” Ricklefs said. “It can be virtual town hall meetings, Q&A sessions, podcasts, blog posts, emails—or all of them. While company-wide communication sets the stage, each leader within the company should reinforce those messages with their direct reports and be ready to answer questions specific to the team.”

Having this transparency in place will also halt, or at least slow, the rumor mill and will help employees feel more secure and less anxious about whatever lies ahead. To that end, employers should model the benefits that a remote workplace provides, emphasizing the positive where possible.

“Leaders will be forced to become more flexible as they work around employees’ at-home responsibilities, leading to more trust and autonomy for everyone,” Ricklefs said. “Companies will gain trust by added emphasis on transparent communication, regardless of where employees do their work. Teams that stay engaged and pull through tough times together will be stronger on the other side of the crisis.”

What First Utah Bank is doing for businesses during the pandemic

As your hometown bank, First Utah Bank is working to make your business life run as smoothly as possible during these often-changing times. We keep tabs on the situation, adjusting our daily work with a focus on serving our customers while adhering to recommendations from Utah authorities and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control.

We’ve developed a bank-wide response plan to answer concerns related to the coronavirus. As part of that response, our branches are remaining open with drive-through service at all of our branches. If you need to come in to the lobby for service, please let us know and we would be happy to assist. We also recommend our online banking options to access accounts, including options that use secure mobile apps.

Our top priority is the well-being of the people in our community, including clients and their families. You can learn more about all the ways First Utah Bank can help during this time at our website.