How to support your packaging procurement team during COVID-19

It goes without saying that the COVID-19 pandemic has affected workers’ mental health. We’re all feeling the effects as we try to work from home and balance family responsibilities. And we all know someone who is suffering from anxiety or depression. Or to put it more bluntly, who isn’t anxious? We’re all scared, and understandably so.

The pandemic has placed unique stresses on packaging procurement teams and the supply chain workforce. Close-knit teams have had to adjust to working at home, making it difficult to collaborate. Travel bans have put a halt to site visits and physical inspections of manufacturing facilities and slowed down logistics networks. Communications challenges make it difficult to collaborate with stakeholders across the supply chain. And to top it off, supply chain disruptions and rapid shifts in consumer demand continue to put pressure on packaging teams. 

Mental health professionals predict that the mental health impact of the pandemic will be felt long after the immediate crisis has passed. Nobody knows what the long-term impact will be on the workforce. One thing’s for sure, companies will need to be flexible and agile to navigate the next few years. 

In the meantime, here are some strategies packaging procurement teams (leaders?) can use to support team members, build greater flexibility, and ensure continuity of supply.

Mental health strategies for packaging procurement

  1.  Name, normalize and navigate – Stigma and isolation can wear down workers who are struggling. Team leaders can help by naming the problem and acknowledging that workers may be struggling. They can reduce stigma by making discussions about workplace mental health normal and candid and by modelling healthy disclosure and vulnerability themselves. And they can help workers navigate the crisis by providing support where it’s needed and by working to address sources of stress in the workplace and supply chain.
  2.  Improve communications – Good communication across the supply chain is crucial. Workers and stakeholders who are working from home or affected by travel bans can face big challenges communicating with each other. Look for ways to improve communications, such as introducing collaboration tools or identifying and addressing communications breakdowns or bottlenecks. 
  3.  Turn challenges into opportunities – Travel bans aren’t likely to end soon, and even if international travel is possible in the near future there’s no guarantee that it will stay that way. This places stress on workers who need to travel to do their jobs, and it can affect continuity of supply. Find new ways to collaborate and develop new ways to handle core formerly remote tasks such as on-site QA. Not only will this empower workers and reduce their stress levels, it will also ensure greater continuity of supply.
  4.  Build supply chain agility – Take the sting out of managing supply disruptions by making it easier to monitor supply chains and quickly switch suppliers if needed. Documenting and automating processes and centralizing specs and artwork can go a long way to make supply chains more agile and reduce stress for team members.

The bottom line: agility is good for your team’s mental health

As the pandemic continues to unfold, lockdown fatigue, increased family obligations, financial strain and uncertainty will continue to erode employees’ mental health and productivity. Supply chain disruptions and shifts in consumer demand will also continue to put pressure on packaging teams. 

Investing in a transition to a digital environment is a wise decision right now. Remote work is going to become the norm for most workers in the supply chain. Implementing digital tools that facilitate collaboration, manage workflows and centralize data will help employees feel more connected to one another and to their work. This will play a pivotal role in creating a healthy work environment and reducing stress, and it will also build stronger teams and a stronger supply chain.