As some parts of the world are slowly loosening, pandemic-related restrictions that have been in place for the past four months, an existential question arises for those dealing with employees’ wellbeing. Can we ever get back to our old ways? The answer is most probably no. But then again, should we?
If the pandemic taught us anything, it was how to adapt and grow in an unprecedented way. We have all changed our routine in some way, whether as an individual or as a company. Even before the pandemic, Rebecca Priels, our global HR director, was extra busy. And though she loves to do sports and eat healthy many times, she forgot to take these little physical and mental well-being steps. During the pandemic, she found herself taking care of her toddler and remote schooling another young child while working full time, keeping on top of all tasks, and managing her team.
In this situation, making the 'remote workplace' a healthy workplace for employees is even a greater need.
Rebecca discovered some strategies that proved successful in promoting workplace wellbeing and boosting productivity and employee satisfaction, no matter where her team members have been working.
Communicate, Communicate, Communicate
Rebecca quickly realised that even with her team in the same office, misunderstandings are a part of the daily routine. Now, sitting at their home computers, with toddlers and pets running around and demanding attention, this became an even greater risk. Regular and clear communication is key to a successful team dynamic in a remote workplace.
For regular and in-depth meetings, organised and pre-prepared discussions have to result in follow-up actions. This requires clear agendas and a systematic chair to guide the meeting and ensure that all topics have been covered. Some departments opted to use project management software, which simplified their task distribution, increased transparency, and productivity and reduced the number of emails exchanged among team members.
For shorter discussions and quick sharing of day-to-day information, platforms such as Facebook’s Workplace have proven to be especially effective. This platform allows all employees to communicate with each other, keep track of projects, discuss ideas, ask for help, share success, or talk about life beyond work.
Finally, managers should also informally check in with individual employees to allow for a confidential space, discuss other matters, or simply check up on any roadblocks the employee might face.
Encourage Time Off
A remote workplace inherently keeps us connected throughout the day. Hearing that a notification chime or a new e-mail arrive might create psychological pressure for many or keep those most ambitious team members connected almost 24/7.
And so managers are advised to encourage team members to take time off. Disconnecting properly helps employees rest and reset for a new productive day, allows them to spend quality time with their families, or simply take time for themselves.
One Size Does Not Fit All
And while reminding Marius to go offline in the afternoons might do him good, suggesting the same to Kate might not work, as evenings are her most productive times of the day. The flexibility that our new realities have enabled us to have are those precious gems that help each of us realise what works best for us. Research shows that some of the most successful companies worldwide offered flexibility even before the pandemic.
Offer Mental (and Physical) Health Support Services
Another great learning from the pandemic is that seeking help is not a crime. Sometimes, a simple note from the Human Resources team reminding employees of the possibility to get psychological support can help someone sleep calmer at night. Offering complimentary de-stressing classes such as yoga or meditation can also help them switch off and take a much-needed break while emptying their minds of worries.
Don’t Forget About Fun Activities
If yoga and meditation are there to help employees relax, one can organise many other activities to keep up that team spirit. Plan activities or have conversations that engage employees personally. Events such as quiz or game nights can be engaging and fun, reminding employees to stop and enjoy the ride.
Between Arnis hosting a live DJ for a virtual Christmas party and Ayushi Modi, our assistant HR manager, APAC organising online Diwali celebrations, we have now literally seen it all.
Do Your Research
Finally, there is no one template for effective employee wellbeing strategies. Personalisation is key in meeting the current and future needs of each employee. While this task seems particularly complicated for the Human Resources department, an initial step could be implementing a simple anonymous survey and discovering what you can do to help your teams. Then, work with providers who can offer requested solutions or services, such as financial consultants to help manage employees' taxes and investment needs, corporate tie-ups with local grocery apps to provide quicker and better service, virtual or personal trainers.
Pivot, Pivot, Pivot
As Rebecca enters into the post-Covid workplace reality, she is more than ever confident that nothing will ever be the same. And the key to employee wellbeing will remain a moving target. Continuous evaluation, improvements, and growth are vital to creating a healthy workplace. Be it remote, in-office, or a hybrid situation in the exciting times that we are moving towards.
- Rucha Bhalekar, marketing manager, Httpool APAC