Workplace wellness programs can sometimes be thought of as a ‘nice to have’ feature provided to employees. They are somewhat of an afterthought, with the onus on the employee to investigate what is available and take advantage of the various offerings. While employees try their best to squeeze in a webinar on stress management during their lunch hour, they struggle to find the desire to log in for one more Zoom meeting that day.
Rather than treating well-being as something optional to be done adjacent to work; what if we integrated it into work itself?
Creating an intentional approach to how work is done is key to building an energized, thriving workforce.
Here are 5 areas to consider:
This past year has taken us on a rollercoaster of emotions ranging from uncertainty, fear, and overwhelm to humility, optimism, and quiet introspection. Whether you were alone in your home, or in a house full of kids and pets, most of us went through phases of feeling isolated in our experience. Without our usual in-person outlets we had to rely solely on technology to keep us together while staying apart.
How can we still feel like part of the team even when we’re not sharing the same physical space?
Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) centered around shared challenges and circumstances are a popular option that helped many employees feel seen and heard and develop relationships with others in the organization they may not have otherwise had the opportunity to meet. Parent and Caregiver ERGs offer colleagues a way to find support and a listening ear. ERGs can be formal or informal; focused on hobbies or common causes.
Other ways to help foster a sense of belonging and inclusivity are with group activities such as fitness challenges, virtual art classes, community giving, and creating networking pods around similar goals.
It’s time to think beyond the job description. Every role in your organization matters and plays a part in the success of the whole. By consistently articulating and demonstrating the core values of the company, leaders can really emphasize this point and employees will really feel that their contributions are important. Employees want to know – is my voice being heard? Do I matter? Provide them with on-going multiple opportunities to directly ask questions to the CEO and leadership team and solicit feedback with the intention that it will be considered and acted upon. Allow and encourage employees to grow their skills, test new solutions, and innovate and you will see real commitment and results. Personal and professional growth are key components to high engagement and optimal well-being.
Many companies have formal bonus programs and incentivized wellness activities. But what really makes all the difference is recognizing effort and contribution, both at the individual and team levels. One really effective way to build this into your culture is to begin staff meetings by sharing three weekly wins. Whether those wins are big or small, whether it’s the completion of a project, receiving customer praise, or achieving a mindset breakthrough that allowed you to come up with a new idea. It’s important to celebrate and recognize wins. What we focus on grows!
Be conscious of how people like to be recognized – do they like the publicity or would they prefer to be quietly acknowledged? It’s also important that opportunities for employees to recognize one another are offered which further encourages inclusiveness, strong relationships, and positive employee experiences.
One of the best things we can do individually and organization-wide is to eliminate outdated processes and practices that drain everyone’s time and energy.
Here are a few ideas:
- Eliminate Email Overload! Have your teams organize their projects using a project management tool such as Slack or Microsoft Teams. This helps prevent version control and accidently leaving people off an email chain.
- Set Email Boundaries – Allow people to check email twice a day during designated times to avoid the continuous distraction of non-urgent pings all day long. This allows mental space to create a solid block of time for focus and concentration to the priorities that matter most.
- Standardize and Automate – Often times there are multiple teams working on one initiative from start to finish. It’s important to periodically check in and ourselves what can we automate, delegate, or delete? Where can we save time and resources in this process? Is there a more efficient way to get the same or better results? Could the time saved be put towards higher level work that will create a better ROI?
- Encourage Calendar Ownership – Avoid multi-tasking and set aside chunks of time for tasks. For example, certain days can be assigned for creative work, a day for meetings and client work, a day for administrative catch-up instead of bouncing back and forth between all those things. If possible, don’t mix too many types of activities in one day. The focus you lose switching between emails, meetings, reading and absorbing, writing, and presenting is astounding. It’s better to block your calendar with your priorities first (including your breaks) and then set aside specific times to respond to the urgent fires.
- Build teams around projects not just departments. This is also important to allow room for growth and innovation. Bring in people who have the desire and bandwidth to support and who can bring a fresh perspective to the group and help break up old patterns of thinking.
Leading By Example
While executives have long recognized that well-being is important, last year brought home how significant it really is. We all know that successfully nurturing a culture of well-being starts at the top. Leaders must do more than communicate that well-being is important. They only give us permission to act when they do as they say.
How can leaders model well-being behaviors and help their employees prioritize their own well-being?
- Institute wellness / mental health days – Propose days where employees are encouraged to log off and go do something to restore themselves. Spend time with the family, get outside, be active, and do something for you. Many organizations do this during and after intense projects to help prevent burnout and restore vitality.
- Loosen up the camera-on and off rules. Being on camera for multiple hours a day is unrealistic and unnecessary. If it helps employees focus to be off video at times, then encourage they can do so without feeling it looks bad.
- Help provide a dedicated, ergonomically designed space to work at home comfortably. Many employees do not have an optimal workspace when working from home. Some of the wellness budget could be allocated to helping provide equipment to employees who need a more conducive place to work.
- Communicate Often. Provide on-going video messages to employees to let them know they are cared for, thought of, and needed. Provide opportunities to connect through virtual coffee chats, hikes, book clubs, or email.
- Bring Mindfulness to Work – Create a culture shift by creating awareness around what is a priority and what is draining us and leading to burnout. Promote the power of micro-breaks, reward innovative thinking, and help us reframe challenges into learning opportunities.
- Create Community outreach opportunities – Giving back and being of service is good for the heart. Create and encourage opportunities for employees to exemplify your company values through volunteerism and community improvement initiatives.
- Listen – Perhaps the most powerful action of all is really listening to your employees. By providing many outlets by which they can raise their voices and consistently and frequently inviting them to do so, real unity and care can be cultivated.
This is by no means an exhaustive list. There is so much we can do to prepare ourselves for a more dispersed and diverse future of work. If we keep employee well-being at the fore front of everything, we do businesses will continue to grow and flourish as their people do.
For more information on how I can partner with your organization to create a culture of well-being contact: firstname.lastname@example.org