Coronavirus: Ways to Support Your Colleagues While Working Remotely

A young woman working remotely.
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Social distancing because of coronavirus has changed how many of us interact with family, friends and even co-workers. You may now find yourself working remotely — maybe from your living room.

Working from home can be challenging. There might be distractions from children or other family members. You may struggle with being isolated, feeling overwhelmed or lacking focus. But remember: We’re all in this together. Here are some ways to better support yourself and your co-workers during this time of adjustment.

Infographic: Instead of Platitudes, Speak Empathy

Staying Connected With Colleagues During the Coronavirus Pandemic

Social distancing has certainly curbed our in-person interactions. Perhaps you’re missing that midmorning chat in the office break room. Or maybe you and a colleague always went for a stroll during lunch.

Staying connected with people is important, especially during a pandemic. Friendships and connections can boost your mental and physical health and can even fend off sickness.

Even though you may no longer be in the same office space, you and your colleagues can still spend time together, and it can instill a bit of normalcy to your day. Try staying virtually connected using the tips below.

Set Aside Time for Small Talk

No office watercooler to gather around? No problem. Set up a video conference call with some of your colleagues to catch up on nonwork-related matters. But be mindful of how much time you spend talking about coronavirus. Dwelling too much on the topic can be stress-inducing.

Get Moving Together

Exercise is one way to help lower stress at times like these. Plus, it gets you up and out of that office chair or off the living room couch. Plan a midafternoon stretching session or workout with a co-worker or two, or schedule a walking meeting.

Connect Through Social Media

You can use instant messaging, a messaging app and other forms of social media to stay in touch with your colleagues. You could even plan trivia events or other contests during the day to keep co-workers interested.

Other Ways to Support Your Co-Workers While Working Remotely

Many people who are now working from home may be juggling childcare, work demands and other responsibilities. It’s important to give fellow co-workers some leeway. Here are some ways to show support:

  • Be patient with email responses
  • Extend deadlines, if possible
  • Offer to help on a project
  • Reschedule meetings, if needed

You may also find that a co-worker just needs to talk or wants to express their feelings or concerns. When talking with others, aim to be kind and compassionate in your responses.

To Be Supportive, Speak Empathy Instead of Platitudes

Platitudes are remarks or phrases that are used too often to be meaningful. Pay attention to the phrases you use when talking to co-workers — and family and friends, too. You may have good intentions in using them, but some common phrases are often insensitive, or overused platitudes that miss the mark on providing support.

To communicate support and compassion, practice replacing these overused and insensitive remarks with more empathetic responses.

Replace Avoidance With Recognition

Instead of saying, “Get busy and distract yourself,” which comes off as dismissive and uninterested, you can say something like these responses to show that you recognize someone’s stress and want to help them:

  • “Sometimes, it helps to do something you enjoy and take a break from the stress.”
  • “Would you like to join me and ______?”
  • “Would you like to help me with _____?”

Feeling overwhelmed, not thinking clearly and keeping to yourself are common reactions to stress. Instead of further pushing someone away, or dismissing their concern, show them you enjoy their company and they can be helpful to you (and other people), even when they are feeling down.

Instead of a Dismissive Command, Offer an Invitation of Support

Instead of telling a co-worker to “Look at the bright side,” or “Stop focusing on the bad stuff,” isn’t only insensitive, it’s also dismissive of their feelings and can further distance someone from you.

Practice saying these supportive invitations instead:

  • “I’m here if you want to talk about how you feel.”
  • “It’s sometimes hard to find the good when so much is going wrong; I’m glad you are here to help.”

Acknowledge the other person’s feelings and show you appreciate them. Remind them there is good still happening, and that they are part of what is good.

Offer Validation of Their Struggles

Everyone does have problems, but that doesn’t make the experience of their problems smaller than anyone else’s. When someone is expressing their struggles to you, responding with, “Everyone has problems,” is almost like telling them that you don’t care about their struggle. It’s an insensitive remark that can damage your relationship with a friend, co-worker or family member.

Instead, validate their struggles by recognizing them. You can say:

  • “Can I relieve any of your stress?”
  • “I can see/hear that is really bothering you. Do you want to talk about it?”
  • “Is there something I can help you with?”
  • “This must be so hard for you.”

Most importantly, show that you care about them. These questions are a way of communicating compassion and hearing their experience.

Offer to Listen and Pray Together

Instead of telling someone to, “Just pray about it,” which may feel dismissive and uncaring, offer to listen to someone. It can be as simple as asking, “Would you like to talk about it?” or even offering to pray together after you talk through what’s going on.

After hearing the concerns of the other person, prayer may be a helpful resource in caring. Spirituality and prayer can be an important source of strength for some people. It is one part of a whole-person approach to care. Listen for and acknowledge emotional and physical needs, as well as spiritual needs.

In stressful times, it’s important to care for yourself and others, including your co-workers. Connecting in a meaningful way can help you do that.

Here to Support You and the People You Care About

We’re here for you as you navigate life during this pandemic. Visit our Coronavirus Resource Hub for helpful tips about COVID-19, FAQs, how to prepare your family and more.

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