26 March, 2020 | Rebecca East

Social isolation: impact on mindset

Did you have viral pandemic in your 5-year business growth forecasts? No, neither did we.

It is frightening to feel out of control, but while there are things we can’t plan for or change, there are others that we can get a grip on and do something about. One of those is how you manage your workforce through a challenging time, to make sure your business and teams stay intact, happy and engaged.

That, we can help with.

Researchers in Antarctica live, for months at a time, in one of the most isolated places on earth. With just a handful of other people, they are faced with the world’s coldest temperatures, cooped up in quarters designed more for practicality than comfort.

In studying these researchers, psychologist Peter Suedfeld found that the stress of this isolation impacted their morale and made it harder for them to do their jobs effectively.

What we’re facing right now obviously isn’t a three-month trip to the most inhospitable place in the northern hemisphere (the weather is nicer for one). But there is one thing that Suedfeld found in his studies that can help us through the next few months of social separation: that in these conditions, a sense of solidarity and teamwork can help some people to thrive.

Creating a sense of teamwork while your team are individually facing isolation isn’t going to be easy, but get it right and the impact on people’s mindset – both professional and personal – could be hugely positive.

Here are a few things that can help you understand your employees’ mindset as they work from home – as well as some proactive tips to improve it.

  1. Consider individual circumstances: A team member holed up with family and someone isolating alone face very different issues. Managers should get a clear picture of what each individual is experiencing and its impact on their mindset, to help tailor workflows and practices to fit.

  2. Keep reviewing performance objectives: Some work performance drivers will change in isolation, others will not. These drivers play a vital role in employee mindset, so it’s important that managers still address them with employees and help them to achieve their work-life blend as best they can, even in isolation.

  3. Bring your team together: We’ve covered this in our previous posts, but we’ll repeat it here because it is crucial to maintaining a positive mindset. Don’t just tick off work objectives in siloes: make sure that your team keeps its sense of togetherness, whether that’s through Google hangout or a daily video call. Share goals, remind each other of the bigger picture, collaborate actively on projects. This sense of solidarity can help you all stay productive.

  4. Set up socialising: Remember, some will be more isolated than others. Find flexible ways to get together (virtually) for a Friday night drink, a lunchtime quiz, or just a social catch-up. It will help your team continue to feel connected – and could be a social life-line to employees who are facing real loneliness.

You can read more about Suedfeld’s research in Canadian Geographic: How Antarctic isolation affects the mind: https://www.canadiangeographic.ca/article/how-antarctic-isolation-affects-mind

And if you want to have a conversation with us about managing social separation as your team works from home, whether you have OpenBlend already or need a tool to help you through this period, give us a call on 01628 613 040 or email hello@openblend.com. OpenBlend can be installed and implemented remotely, so you can start helping your managers and employees straight away.

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