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Support a healthy workplace through a COVID commitment

What is a COVID commitment?

The COVID commitment idea was first described by consultant Mary Ellen Ball of the Open Delta Group. She referred to it as a “contract” and encouraged organizations to recognize that we are living in a pandemic with undeniable demands on our time. 

COVID commitments re-state organizational priorities and recognize that employees, their families and all others have different needs during this pandemic and business is not operating as usual. COVID commitments adjust expectations so that workplaces are more effective and employees remain healthy and avoid burnout. Above all else, they prioritize trust and safety.

As the world focuses on vaccinations and we begin to see the light at the end of the tunnel, we know that the long-term effects of COVID are unknown and likely to be with us for some time. Adopting organizational practices that better support the mental well-being of diverse staff members with varied needs will support a more resilient and healthy workforce over the long haul.

To develop a COVID Commitment, consider the recommendations below. 

Welcome flexibility

  • Engage employees in creating new ways of working and communicating.
  • Be conscientious when scheduling events and meetings. Acknowledge that current needs of families (staff and participants) may require adjustments. Respect when people are ‘on’ or ‘off’ the clock.
  • Allow time for employees to address immediate home needs. For example, are they prepared for quarantine if it happens to them?

Focus on the positive

  • Resilience is the ability to adapt well in the face of adversity. In order to remain healthy at the workplace, pay attention to maintaining your own resilience as you take on task-related goals. Watch a short video - Two for You: Stress and Resilience.
  • Encourage self-care activities. Find ideas at Taking Care of Yourself Under Stress.
  • Make time for fun and joy when appropriate.

 Right-size the workload

  • Prioritize what’s important and give permission to let other tasks go.
  • Avoid being pulled in too many directions. Aim for fewer projects with deeper focus.
  • Recognize exhaustion and overwork as warning signs. Don’t reward them.
  • Call out and protect each other in keeping appropriate workloads.
  • Create “stop doing” goals as part of your work. For example, when you add a new task to your list, decide which other task you can delegate or drop.

Minimize screen time

  • Schedule only needed meetings with a clear purpose. Learn to lead engaging meetings.
  • Limit number and length of meetings. 
  • Allow option for phone during video calls. Consider walking while meeting by phone.
  • Clarify availability in order to schedule meetings only when employees are available.
  • Plan work-related activities away from screen. Examples include work-related book clubs, walking meetings and online check-ins with work completed away from screen.
  • Schedule time each day without online meetings.
  • Ensure that home screen spaces are ergonomically healthy — address eyestrain, headaches, etc. 

Utilize paid time off

  • Use appropriate leave to take care of yourself.
  • Honor lunch and other breaks — your own and that of others.

Attend to leadership style

  • Demonstrate care and compassion in leadership and supervision.
  • Inquire about employees’ well-being, workload and needs. Offer help in overcoming barriers.
  • Encourage employees to use appropriate leave time to care for themselves.
  • Recognize that burnout prevents people from contributing their strategy, perspective and creativity. Learn about how to model asking for help and more from this list of Brené Brown’s leadership behaviors.
  • Share your own self-care activities. Demonstrating self-care is more powerful than talking about it.
Related topics: Family
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