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Balancing COVID-19 Challenges with Remote Service Delivery

Written by Ray Sabharwal

Working in social or nonprofit services while staying at home can be difficult and raises many questions for those affected, such as how do you stay in touch with the outside world while in lockdown? Where do you draw the line between personal and professional life? How do you build solid professional connections if you’re unable to see your clients in person? How do you provide quality service virtually?

Percentage of workers who reported select mental health challenges 

Percentage of workers reporting higher, equal or lower levels of stress since the coronavirus outbreak in 2020* 

A survey was recently conducted by Statista Research Departmentwith 2,000 participants from countries including the US, Australia and the UK, to study the impact of COVID-19 on worker mental health. The results demonstrated that almost 30% of workers had a hard time concentrating on their duties at work. In that same survey, almost 70% of workers reported higher levels of stress since the Coronavirus outbreak started.

While it’s crucial to stay home and protect our community, trying to address the issues that come with social distancing can take a toll on our mental health. After all, even social service and nonprofit organization workers aren’t super human! So, what’s the beΩst way forward? Well, there are no perfect solutions, but here are some recommendations:

Feel connected while staying at home

First, we must remember that we’re simply being asked to physically distance ourselves from members outside our household. This does not mean we need to socially isolate ourselves or become a recluse. We’re fortunate that we have access to very advanced technology that allows us to connect with others simply by being online. Reach out to your coworkers, family, and friends. Have an online happy hour, play online games, or watch movies together online!

Differentiate between blurred lines

Secondly, the distinction between work and home becomes especially blurred if your work desk is a few steps from the place where you sleep. Often, the line between self-care and caring for others becomes indistinct, especially for those working in social services. It’s important that each of us avoids losing ourselves in the midst of looming deadlines and a growing work/life imbalance. According to a study published by Telus International, 4 out of 5 workers find it hard to “shut off” in the evenings. Too much of anything is bad and, while it’s tempting to just continue muddling through amid the blurred lines of work and home, we need to set boundaries to prevent burnout and loss of productivity. One thing to remember is that it’s important to take breaks and listen to your body. For example, the Centre for Workplace Mental Health encourages everyone to try taking a walk or enjoying some fresh air whenever circumstances allow. Get outside if you can and recharge your batteries in between meetings!

Keep your business running remotely

Many social service providers and nonprofits are in an odd, grey area where they’re considered essential workers but are being asked to stay home to prevent the spread of COVID-19. This poses a dilemma on how to balance the needs of society versus the needs of your clients. At Athena, we try to help ease this dilemma for social service organizations by providing software solutions that help you deliver quality services to your clients from the comfort and safety of your home. With Penelope client management software and our accompanying client portal, ClientConnect, your clients can easily request service, book appointments and schedule calls, while your teams can log referrals and collaborate internally, all while staying safe.

If you’re a people manager, here’s what you can do to support your employees:

1. Encourage online training. This is the best time to promote professional development within your team(s) because it can be done online and with little to no supervision! This can help improve internal skills while motivating your staff and helping them feel engaged and cared for. For example, we provide an online learning management system for our users that’s accessible from anywhere. By using this system, our customers can customize courses according to each employee’s specific role, incentivize the process for a better experience, create classroom video conferences, and much more.

2. If possible, set up an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) for everyone to utilize. If you already have one in place, then remind your staff it’s there for their use. Ensure open communication and provide access to all relevant resources and links.

3. Ensure a comfortable work environment is set up at your staff members’ homes. A dining chair and $40 desk from IKEA is not ideal for someone who sits in front of a laptop all day. Invest in a budget for ergonomic assistance. While it may seem minor and unimportant, it can have a huge impact on your staff members’ productivity and health.

Remember, staying home and coping with the mental health struggles that come with isolation doesn’t have to be permanent. This is only a temporary solution to address a transitory problem. On the bright side, think of all the new skills, self-discoveries, bonds, and memories we’ve made in the past year. In fact, learning to adapt to changing environments and modifying our lifestyles is a skill we all can add to our resumes!

We’re all in this together and we all have to remember no one is exempt from this pandemic and its adverse effects. Hang in there and read more about how some organizations are collaborating to assist their communities and leverage technology!

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