This is my first experience in several decades of business recovery and planning for a new area: mental health & wellbeing.
Our ISO27001 certified BCM (Business Continuity Management) plan worked flawlessly and I was really pleased that gaps we had identified in our real-world test in January 2020 helped us to seamlessly transition to home working and a virtual office during the Covid-19 pandemic.
However, we discovered one gap after the first week.
We found that no longer being able to interact easily and casually with our colleagues not only impacted business efficiency but our mental wellbeing as well.
Fortunately, we have a great team and their experience in online gaming came to the rescue! We piloted the use of a gaming chat tool to help improve social interaction and after the first week, we rolled this out to the whole office.
After a month of using the tool, I have been extolling the virtues of 'online gaming' chat functionality to everyone I come across who is experiencing this 'loneliness' of not being able to interact with colleagues face-to-face for work or casually.
Arguably, gaming tools are more sophisticated in their usability for social interaction than the likes of Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Skype and Slack (all of which we use), since they are inherently designed to improve the social experience of collaboration.
In searching for research or articles on the topic, Google's top article was from the New Scientist. The quoted 'advice from experts' fails to practically address workplace social interaction, as did the next 4 results on the list.
In addition to workplace tooling for social interaction, like chat apps used in many organisations, creative organisations are also applying concepts that sit atop these enabling tools to get casual social interaction going. One such idea is Coffee Roulette, an opt-in concept of virtual coffee breaks with randomly selected colleagues — a great way to check in on people while also getting know colleagues you may not know well.
I recommend anyone involved in real-world business continuity planning to specifically consider and address the workplace social interaction element. After all, we spend 1/3 (or more!) of our lives working. Our mental wellbeing in scenarios like the pandemic is crucial as individuals as well as from the lens of business continuity.
7 mental health expert tips on how to cope with the covid-19 pandemic