Winter Blues, The distress is real for virtual teams and how leaders can improve employee engagement. It’s Ok to Not be Ok.

Hey Honey it’s cold outside. Cabin Fever and how leaders can lower employee distress. It’s Ok to Not be Ok. #Employeeengagement #ErlinKakkand #Engineercreativethinking

Virtual employee engagement strategies to help employees from being depressed during quarantine. The new leadership crisis is here and no body is paying attention to it.

Winter Blues aka. Cabin fever usually refers to being stuck indoors due to inclement weather. Employees working remote can face the effects of cabin fever that can dramatically impact their work performance. Knowing what the signs are will help leaders prepare their staff, recognize the signs early on and provide support to the employee to help cope with it.

Cabin fever was coined in 1800’s in North America. Being cooped up with no contact with neighbors and no social activities, living in isolation for an extended period of time.

Working from home in the summer was manageable in ways where some outdoor time could be accomplished due to warm weather. A short walk or run during the lunch time, gardening in the weekends or yard work added some well needed physical activity. Well of course summers don’t last forever. We are soon going to be bracing the cold winters. With the cold weather many outdoor activities for the general population in the colder mid-west regions come to a steady stop. It takes some strong determination and motivation for me to go for my runs in the winter, but I don’t see the other runners on the running trails who I would see during the summers.

Cabin fever is not a specific diagnosis, but rather a constellation of symptoms that can occur under these circumstances.

If you are experiencing cabin fever as a result of social distancing or self-quarantine in the wake of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, you may be feeling additional stress beyond that which stems from simply being isolated. There are ways to combat the anxiety you may be feeling. Lisa Fritscher

As a leader who is managing remote workers in the wake of Covid-19 it is important to keep an eye out for early signs of cabin fever.

Gallup is closely tracking the engagement and wellbeing of the workforce during this unprecedented time of disruption. In their recent 2020 Gallup report, 40% are engaged at work — they are enthusiastic and committed to their work and workplace. 47% are not engaged — they are psychologically unattached to their work and company and waiting for the next job offer. Then there is a category called “actively disengaged” at 13% , those who have miserable work experiences and spread their unhappiness to their colleagues.

Identify the early signs

Missing deadlines and poor quality

Quiet during meetings and unwilling to participate in discussions

Withdrawn from the crowd

Lack of cooperation

Persistent sadness

Morale problems


Employees’ well-being must be the new KPI — Key Performance indicator — for Leaders

Its ok not to be Ok.

Leaders can help the employee as they are coping with these early signs of cabin fever. Here are a few ways:

Listen to care

We’ve heard this before that leaders should listen and listen well. To truly support an employees’ well being, Leaders must listen and genuinely care. Listen with a purpose to support and help. Show that you care about the employee. Leaders need to instill trust in their employees and employees need to believe that their manager is there to support them and they need to feel like their leader genuinely cares about them as people. — [Gallup’s Perspective on Employee Burnout: Causes and Cures]

Make work purposeful

When routine sets in, the employees feel like they have to get up next day to do the same things all over again. This is where the purpose and mission can get lost for employees. Not feeling like the work is creating an impact can further lead an employee to be disengaged and tuned out. As leaders in this pandemic, it is important to highlight the good and the impact the employee is making to the overall company’s mission and purpose.

Make it intellectually fun

You could do so many things to pass your time such as watching TV, netflix mindlessly. I have made the most of my Netflix membership this past 6 months than I’d ever before.. it’s just crazy watch time during the pandemic. However a good intellectual challenge is what can be the trick to wake my mind and instigate thinking that mindless TV does not do. As a leader you need to find some cool puzzles, or Trivia’s to get your team to answer in a group chat or through email to engage in some fun and allow for some informal interaction and intellectual challenge.

Check- In’s

Check in with your employee’s more frequently through different methods — email, Video conference calls, IM and Group chats. Keep them informed about the various decisions that impact the team. Be transparent about work performance and provide clear direction and feedback on development areas. Assume positive intent. Give grace.

With everything related to health and well-being, leaders have to maintain confidentiality and uphold the employees’ trusted partnership. Organization are responsible for the well-being of their employees and alleviating distress, this will benefit the organization in retaining and engaging top talent.

Thanks for reading my article.

Photo by Josh Hild from Pexels

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