As we navigate 2020, we have been faced with disappointments, challenges and uncertainties. We have also learned and tried new things! We know how important social interaction is to our mental health, and it can be challenging now to fill that need. As we head into the holiday season, we are considering new ways that we can celebrate the holidays and socialize with our families and friends. Here are some ideas from your co-workers to connect with your loved ones over the holidays, if you aren’t able to be with them in person.
- Apps such as House Party – you can have a virtual gathering where you can video chat and play games with a group of people.
- Kahoot for family games – your kids may use this in school and they probably love it. It is a game based learning platform (ex. quizzes) that multiple people can join, and does have a fee.
- Send printed photos or kid’s drawings to family members.
- Send an encouraging note, email, or card to friends, family, and co-workers.
- Virtual family gatherings via Zoom, Microsoft TEAMS, Skype, FaceTime, etc.
- Call on the phone if Grandpa doesn’t ‘zoom’ 🙂
- Consider your holiday traditions, and see if you can continue any of them in a different way – maybe someone makes Grandma’s special Christmas candies and ships some to family members, or individual families do the annual sledding at their homes and share photos or videos of it with everyone, or a Zoom call while watching the Thanksgiving football game.
- Have a younger family member help put together a collage or scrolling pictures of family members or past gatherings – throw in some new and funny pics to share with everyone!
- Have a family trivia contest – ask each family member ahead of time for some random/interesting facts about them, put them into trivia questions and see how everyone does.
- Family members or friends each put together a Power Point about a topic and share it while video chatting, like which breed of dog each person in the friend group would be and why, favorite memories of grandparents, bucket list of top 5 things you want to do in your lifetime, etc.
- Christmas tree or gingerbread house decorating contest
- Secret Santa or White Elephant – you could pick names and mail the gift ahead of time to be opened during the zoom meeting!
Plan ahead so that your holidays are more enjoyable and can still provide you that precious time with loved ones. You may make some fun memories that you’ll talk about for years!
Teleworking during the COVID-19 pandemic can make you feel like you’re working all the time. Know how to set boundaries between your work and personal life, as well as avoid professional isolation.
If your office is closed due to the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, you might be working from home for the first time. While teleworking can offer many benefits, teleworking during the pandemic poses unique challenges. Consider these tips for maintaining work-life balance and avoiding professional isolation while social distancing.
Pros and cons of teleworking
Before the pandemic, research suggested that teleworking can increase employees’ job satisfaction and commitment to an organization and even slightly improve their performance at work. Teleworking can also reduce exhaustion and work-related stress, possibly due to a reduced commute or more-flexible hours. Other benefits include a reduction in commuting costs and more freedom to work independently.
However, teleworking has always had drawbacks, including social and professional isolation, decreased information sharing opportunities, and difficulty separating work and personal time. The lack of a physical separation between these two worlds can cause family obligations to intrude on work and work obligations to bleed into family time. This can cause teleworkers to work extra hours to prove themselves, resulting in burnout. The ability to be constantly connected to work through a variety of technologies also can cause employees to feel like they are always on or unable to unplug at the end of the day.
Teleworking due to the coronavirus
Teleworking during the pandemic brings extra challenges.
Those new to working from home likely aren’t used to being isolated from co-workers and might not have a home office or area conducive to doing work. With other family members also potentially at home, including children or a partner, avoiding distractions and interruptions might be next to impossible. To find privacy, employees could find themselves in the awkward position of conducting meetings from their bedrooms or kitchens. And getting virtual meeting technology to work properly isn’t always easy. These changes can cause anxiety, stress and frustration.
Preventing professional isolation while teleworking
For those new to teleworking, the biggest challenge of working from home during the pandemic might be the lack of in-person collaboration with colleagues. Teleworkers don’t get to see their managers, staff or team members in the hallway or at the watercooler. As a result, regular contact through email, phone calls and virtual meetings is crucial. You might make time at the start of meetings specifically for small talk to give people time to interact.
Managers might consider having a regular five-minute check-in with each staff member, even if there is no pressing business to discuss. For colleagues, consider scheduling virtual lunch and coffee meetings to catch up on each other’s projects and maintain your relationships. Online communication platforms also can help keep you connected throughout the day.
Teleworking and work-life balance during the coronavirus
The key to work-life balance as a teleworker is being able to set boundaries — both for your work and personal obligations. To get started:
- Develop a routine. Come up with rituals that help you define the beginning and end of your workday. For example, make your bed and get dressed each morning as if you were going into the office. When you’re done working each day, change your outfit, take a drive or walk — in place of your normal commute — or do an activity with your kids. Starting and stopping work at around the same time each day might help, too.
- Exercise your willpower. Take care of yourself by eating healthy and working out. Resisting the temptation to do otherwise will help you when you need the discipline to set boundaries for your work and personal life.
- Talk to your manager. Discuss your manager’s expectations for your availability and the obstacles you might be facing at home. Ask what time of day is acceptable for you to stop checking your work emails or responding to work requests. Or agree on an alternative schedule with flexibility that allows you to spend some time caring for your kids during the day and make up hours at other times.
- Talk to your family. If you are working from home due to the pandemic and also have family at home, try to establish guidelines regarding interruptions. If your children are young, you’ll likely need to regularly talk to them about when you are working and can’t play, as well as come up with activities or temporary distractions for them. If there is more than one caregiver at home, you might take turns caring for the kids. You might also remind family and friends what times of day you can and can’t talk or text.
- Think before you press send. Working from home might mean emailing, messaging or texting every time you want to talk to a co-worker. Reduce the burden on your colleagues by making it clear when a request is urgent or important. If you’re in a leadership role, consider how sending late-night emails might affect your employees’ ability to unwind and enjoy time away from work.
- Prioritize your work. Focus on your most important work right now. Working all of the time isn’t good for you — or your family.
Working from home during the COVID-19 pandemic requires patience, creativity and persistence. Keep experimenting to figure out what works best for you during this uncertain period.
Source: Mayo Clinic/2020, from FEI website
The University of Wisconsin System announced a new online behavioral health tool, SilverCloud, that offers self-guided programs for anxiety, depression, stress, insomnia, and resilience. The tool is now available to faculty, staff, and students at any time, on any device, and at no cost.
“While the behavioral health of our students, faculty, and staff has always been a high priority for the UW System, the current COVID-19 pandemic has put those needs into even sharper focus,” said UW System President Tommy Thompson. “We are working hard to find ways to provide these vital services to our UW community and this online tool is a great option.”
System experts have been broadly reviewing the behavioral health challenges facing students, the availability of existing services, and the need for additional services. The SilverCloud tool emerged as one of several strategies.
“The Board of Regents has made student behavioral health a top priority,” said Regent President Andrew S. Petersen. “We are pleased that SilverCloud will be available to our students, staff, and faculty during the upcoming academic year, and we look forward to additional recommendations from our campus and System experts.”
In April 2019, a UW System report showed a 55 percent increase in demand for behavioral health support since 2010. That report, in conjunction with other behavioral health indicators, led the System to create three work groups that focused on identifying solutions and approaches to mitigate the growing behavioral health needs of the UW community. One work group reviewed crisis management services for students at risk of suicide or self-harm. A second looked at targeted interventions for vulnerable student populations, including veterans, students of color, and LGBTQ+ students. A third studied ways to foster healthy learning environments. The UW System Board of Regents will receive an update on this work at its meeting in October.
Based on cognitive behavioral therapy principles, the SilverCloud self-guided program allows individuals to manage day-to-day stressors personally and anonymously using interactive content and skill-building tools.
Studies have shown that online cognitive behavioral therapy can provide an effective form of care for those who are highly motivated and experiencing mild to moderate symptoms. The program can supplement traditional therapy or campus mental health services, while some individuals may use it without seeing a counselor at all.
To sign up or find out more about the tool, visit: https://uwsystem.silvercloudhealth.com/signup
Source: UW System
STAYWELL PRESENTS WELL WISCONSIN RADIO
Monthly expert interviews on various health topics with professionals around the state!
Gratitude and Meditation in Times of Stress and Anxiety: A conversation with Robert McGrath
In this interview, we talk with Robert McGrath, a psychologist with UW-Madison’s University Health Services. Robert has expertise in Health Psychology, Living with Vitality and Resilience, and Mind/Body Wellness.
- AUGUST 11th, 2020
Please note that you must attend live in order to be awarded credit toward your 2020 Well Wisconsin well-being activity.
A recording will be available after the event but will not count toward your well-being activity completion.
Source: The StayWell Company, LLC
Source: The StayWell Company, LLC
Here is your wellness challenge for July! Complete at least 20 of the 24 activities on the bingo card from July 1st to July 31st to qualify for a chance to win a prize!
- Click here and print out your bingo card
- Mark off each square and write the date you complete that item during the month of July
- Scan or take a photo of your bingo card and email it to email@example.com by August 10th
Stay healthy this summer!
Take a moment to dream a little.
Of a life that lets you be the best possible you. You wake up energized each morning. You are using your many talents. You are accomplishing new things. You feel good about yourself, your health and your future.
Our program is designed to help make that dream a reality, and we are throwing a snooze fest to get you on your way! After all, while hard work is important in meeting your future goals—so is the time you spend snuggled under a blanket. Quality sleep is a must for recharging your mind and body. Virtually all of us could benefit from more of it.
Introducing the Sleep Challenge
- Get seven hours of sleep on 21 nights during the month of July.
- Learn how to make sleep a priority so you can get more of it.
- Fulfill the well-being activity portion of your Well Wisconsin incentive*.
Is the Sleep Challenge for you?
Do any of these statements sound like you?
- I sleep a lot, but I always feel tired anyway.
- I’m a total insomniac. I’ve tried to sleep better but I can’t.
- I may not sleep as much as I’d like, but I’m doing OK most days.
- I sleep pretty well already. I’m not sure I need more.
- I’m so busy keeping up with my family that I barely have time to sleep.
If you said Yes, then this competition is for you!
*The Well Wisconsin incentive program is a voluntary program available to employees, retirees and spouses enrolled in the State of Wisconsin Group Health Insurance Program, excluding Medicare Advantage participants who have incentives available through their health plan. The Well Wisconsin incentive will automatically be issued to eligible participants upon completing the applicable activities. All wellness incentives paid to participants are considered taxable income to the group health plan subscriber and are reported to their employer, who will issue a W2. In some cases, the Wisconsin Retirement System acts as the employer. Retirees, continuants and their spouses will have some taxes withheld from the incentive amount earned.
465245 Copyright © 2020 The StayWell Company, LLC. StayWell is a registered trademark of The StayWell Company, LLC.
COVID-19 has challenged many people’s security and sense of control. Returning to work represents a return to normal, but it may not be without its own causes for anxiety. Finding a balance between your personal wellbeing and work environment and responsibilities is important. So, before and after your return to work, you should address any reservations related to COVID-19 that may affect your work duties.
Continue to follow the recommended measures to prevent spreading the virus. Take care of yourself and others by taking the necessary actions at work (washing your hands often, staying home if you’re sick, and maintaining social distancing), as well as in your daily interactions. If the kind of work you do needs additional precautions, discuss necessary changes, and follow the instructions from your manager.
Don’t be afraid to propose additional suggestions. If you find yourself coming up with more ideas outside of the recommended safety measures, bring those up to your manager. This is a time where everyone must adapt to a new way of doing things—at work and home. By becoming more involved, this can provide a refocus of your thoughts and put you in a more optimistic place during this transition. So, go ahead and suggest your ideas. These could be beneficial to your workplace and create an easier transition for the rest of your team.
Keep communication open with your manager. Do you have children or an elderly family member at home? Or, do you have health conditions that put you at greater risk for COVID-19 infection, disrupted childcare arrangements, or other concerns? Be honest with your manager if you need certain arrangements (working from home for longer or working in a solitary space away from other staff members). Even if your manager cannot accommodate your needs exactly, most will do what they can. When you create an open line of communication, you can keep your supervisor informed on your day-to-day, as well as alleviate any apprehensions you may have about your work situation.
Be patient with yourself and your coworkers. In the aftermath of a stressful or disruptive event, it is natural to move at a slower pace while you recover and adjust to new circumstances. If you have concerns that are keeping you from focusing on your work (anxiety about working in a shared space with other staff or fear over the spread of the virus), share these thoughts with your manager. They may be able to offer guidance or options for you. Keep in mind that returning to work from COVID-19 puts everyone in circumstances that are new and different. Give yourself some time to return to your former focus and full productivity. Be patient and trust that your team will find its old rhythm.
Take care of your mental health. Anxiety and fear are normal when you come back to work after a stressful event. If you realize that you are not able to manage these feelings, ask for help. There are various resources you can locate, including your employee assistance program (EAP) or additional professional support.
The above article is from our Employee Assistance Program, FEI.
Here are some other helpful resources from FEI:
In an upside-down world, sometimes good news can cause mixed feelings.
For instance, if you or a family member was furloughed, temporarily laid off, or asked to work from home in response to the COVID-19 epidemic, being asked to return to work can be great news—wrapped in fear. With a bow of anxiety on top.
That’s OK. That’s a normal reaction.
Make a Personal Plan
Some states are very slowly starting to reopen work sites, shops, schools, and public spaces. Venturing back into these spaces may cause feelings of fear, worry, and even anger.
It may help you to know that many other people share your anxiety. It’s a healthy response. Use it to motivate yourself to make a solid plan for returning to work. Here are some things you should know before creating your plan:
- How COVID-19 is transmitted.
- Basic infection prevention measures.
- The signs and symptoms of infection.
Execute Your Plan
Now that you have some solid science-backed information, start your plan. The best plan is one that you create and feel you can execute. Below are some suggestions. You can rearrange, skip, or add items as you need or want to. This is your plan.
Make sure you continue to:
- Exercise to reduce stress and boost your immune system.
- Get enough sleep to help your body manage stress and boost your immune system.
- Eat healthy to provide your body with the nutrients it needs to prevent infection.
- Meditate to calm your mind for clear thinking and better focus.
Start working on:
- Figuring out how you will ease back in to work—Create a calendar, step-by-step plan, or tactical report—it doesn’t matter what it is, as long as you have a plan.
- Making household arrangements—Talk to family members about their concerns and expectations. Don’t wait until the day before to line up daycare, meals, etc., if you usually take care of those things.
- Getting your supply list together—Start a list now of the things you want to bring with you.
- Learning to avoid touching your face—Seriously. You would be surprised how often and unconsciously you touch your eyes, nose, and mouth.
Things you can do when back on the work site:
- Discourage coworkers and visitors from using your phone, computer, tools, or other work items. If you must share, be sure to wipe down all surfaces between users. And try not to use others’ items as well.
- Keep a 60%-alcohol (or higher) hand sanitizer at your desk or in your tool bag or pocket.
- Try to maintain space between yourself and coworkers.
- Stay home if you are sick. Ask others to do the same.
- Know and follow your employer’s guidelines about staying safe at work.
Source: The StayWell Company, LLC