The COVID-19 pandemic has catapulted the work-from-anywhere lifestyle into the status quo. These days, you and your employees are most likely miles (or states) away from each other, and already-isolating jobs like commercial truck drivers have become even more lonesome.
These drivers and other on-the-go professionals who help keep the economy running may face periods of isolation from working long hours with minimal human interaction, which can have profound effects on mental and physical health. Keep reading to learn how to help isolated employees feel connected and keep their spirits up for the long road ahead.
Why Communication is Key
Open communication between managers and employees can create a sense of belonging and foster trust, while also instilling a level of ease and promoting open channels if and when workers want to approach management with concerns.
Encourage employees to embrace not only open lines of communication but also the myriad new ways in which this can be done, some of which are detailed below.
Choosing the Optimal Channel
Management can leverage technology to help workers access new channels of communication.
Present your team with a variety of communication platforms and clarify which platform should be used for which types of messages. For example, make it clear that text messages should be used for urgent info like last-minute changes or responses that are needed right away, while longer, less crucial information can be sent via email. To avoid waking shift workers during their coveted sleeping time, schedule text messages to be sent during their waking hours only.
When possible, use video conferencing for face-to-face communication, which can be rare for workers who live alone or have very little human interaction. Video calls allow for the reading of facial expressions that can serve as verbal cues for the other person’s comprehension of an idea or overall disposition.
Keeping Employees Engaged
Driving a truck may be a solitary activity, but the onset of remote work for all types of industries has created new opportunities for team building from anywhere.
Stay in touch with e-newsletters, Facebook groups, and video messaging apps to encourage your teams to communicate with the main office and with each other. Consider starting a group Facebook page or other online community space where your staff can post questions and answers, share photos from their workspaces, or participate in weekly contests like scavenger hunts.
Creating a sense of community among remote workers can help neutralize feelings of isolation.
Sticking with the example of long-haul truck drivers, some employees may have to spend hours behind the wheel, which can take a serious toll on physical and mental health. Check in frequently with your teams to ensure they’re taking care of themselves, getting enough sleep, and have access to health and wellness resources no matter where they are.
One way to achieve this is by setting up automated text messages reminding employees to take breaks, to hydrate, or to reach out to a counselor if they need to talk. Offer a discount to an app like Headspace or Calm, two programs that can teach workers how to take a break and engage in self-care activities on their own time.