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Help! How to show up for your team during this summer’s ‘pingdemic’

27 July 2021

Story by
Sarah Rice

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As the effects of the NHS test and trace app hit home, Alex Hind, co-founder of workplace benefits platform Heka, explains how companies can better support self-isolating employees. 

There is never a good time to self-isolate, but the timing of the so-called ‘pingdemic’ sweeping Britain right now is particularly bad – coming as it does on the heels of a global health pandemic and multiple lockdowns. With more than half a million people pinged by the NHS test and trace app in one week alone this month, long hoped-for plans for business recovery are being thrown into disarray.

It’s a frustrating time for many employees: while some are forced to isolate, others are facing the knock-on pressures of crippling staff shortages, with more work and less people to help.

Now, however, is not the time for managers to get hung up on performance or presenteeism.

As teams everywhere struggle to adapt to the continuing fallout of Covid, and the risk of pandemic burnout still looming large, it’s more important than ever to help employees feel valued and heard. Doing so, within the premise of an economy of kindness, is the only way to safeguard morale. Here’s how:

Actively support those who are isolating

Since self-isolating after being pinged is an advisory step – albeit one that the government describes as “crucial” – it may be tempting to ask employees to do a test and then come back to work if they log a negative result.

But, health risks aside, such an approach ignores the wider consequences of employees feeling dismissed or taken for granted. People will likely already feel low due to having to isolate, so it’s up to you to lift their spirits and make each individual feel seen with personalised support. It’s a nice idea to send a box of wellness products, e.g. essential oils, organic fruit or a box of fancy teas.

You could even weave self-isolation into the fabric of your company rituals, for example by arranging small “freedom day” events for each person when their isolation period is up. Any effort to spread a bit of inspiration and joy here will reap dividends.

Double down on a culture of inclusivity

Since everyone is suffering the effects of being forced apart, a cohesive culture is central right now. Work as flexibly as you can; if most of your team has the option to work from home anyway, those isolating won’t feel so left out.

Equally, it’s worth thinking about how you can step up on the virtual elements of your employee experiences. For example, you could arrange regular yoga sessions in an office studio that people tune into from home as well. Or you could put in place a series of remote coffee meetups, and regular online workshops where you can all learn a fun skill together (e.g. chocolate-making or watercolour classes).

It’s also worth ensuring that everyone in your team has a screen and headphones to work from, so you can all tune in together at any point. Regularly check in with your employees to see what their fears and hopes are around ways of working, too: people feel more valued when they have an active role to play in shaping their environment.

Put your people first

With all that we’ve been through, now is the time to double down on a holistic employee culture that brings people together. The pingdemic we see unfolding is difficult for all involved, which is why gearing up your care efforts – taking into account employees’ physical, emotional and mental health – is vital.

In volatile times, loyalty is one of the few currencies with real lasting power. Put your people first for the glue to hold you together, placing your business in pole position for the challenges ahead.

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