As the global workforce collectively navigates through a pandemic, many employers (of office workers in particular) have scrambled to transition their teams to remote work. The transition happened suddenly, leaving both employers and employees with the task of adjusting to this new normal with little preparation.
Although there are known benefits of remote work on mental wellbeing, we must keep in mind that there is a marked difference between someone choosing to work remotely versus being forced into the decision out of necessity (i.e. a pandemic). The experience is different for everyone.
Fortunately, there are ways to make the work-from-home life a more positive experience, alleviating some of the stress it may have brought on. Ultimately, the mental wellbeing of employees is key, not just for producing good work, but for creating a supportive and enjoyable environment for everyone involved.
In order to enhance the remote work experience, our leadership team has adjusted some of our common practices to suit our new virtual team set-up. We recognized that the negative impacts of remote work on mental health often centered around feelings of isolation, loneliness and lack of communication. So, our goal was to create connection points and synergy as a means to improve emotional wellness at home:
We’re hosting virtual Quarterly Check-Ins that focus on an employee’s goals surrounding their professional development, engagement and emotional wellness. It’s an open dialogue and we’ve coached our leaders on how to truly listen to the responses. As always, communication is key! We want to ensure our team feels heard and empowered in their own growth by being a part of the process. If you’d like to check out our Quarterly Check in guide, please email HRTopics@excelHR.com.
Pre-COVID, we hosted Team Time on Fridays at 4pm. An opportunity for our team to gather for beer and chips to cap off the week. Despite being at home, we’ve continued to host these weekly socials via Zoom. The focus is socialization, not business. For us, it’s fostered a sense of connection within the teams and strengthened our relationships. Getting the chance to meet one another’s family members and go on virtual home tours, allows us to bring more of our whole selves to our team.
We’ve also continued to celebrate work anniversaries—virtually, of course. Pre-COVID we marked the occasion with a lunch / performance review followed by a team celebration. Now our leaders are scheduling the performance review virtually and hosting a celebration with the team via Zoom. For major milestones, we’ve added a few personal touches like mailing a team member 15 cards from colleagues across the company to mark 15 years with our firm. These acts can go a long way to show your team that you appreciate them.
Since going fully remote, we’ve re-defined our Guiding Principles (our core values as a firm) and engaged team members from each group to champion them on a weekly basis. We host regular meetings to regroup on the values and brainstorm new ways to demonstrate them. If you’re interested in seeing a copy of our Guiding Principles, email HRTopics@excelHR.com.
We’ve been pairing new hires with a mentor who touches base with them daily to see how their onboarding is progressing, and to answer any questions they may have. We’ve also been conducting virtual onboarding surveys to collect feedback on our process so that we can make enhancements as we go.
We’ve put a great deal of emphasis on our Diversity & Inclusion initiatives the past few months. Although this has always been a priority for our firm, we’ve taken the experience of COVID-19 as an opportunity to strengthen our efforts. It gives people a chance to focus on something that impacts our organization, but that is a change of pace from their regular work. It also connects people from different teams and gets them collaborating on something meaningful. The goal of our Diversity & Inclusion Team has been to actively find ways of celebrating our team, and the differences they bring to the table.
Lastly, COVID has encouraged us to review our Emotional Wellness Program to determine if it meets the needs of our current workforce. We’ve been exploring ways to enhance the program and make it unique to our firm. We’ve been seeking input from team members on what they would like to see to feel supported.
When in-person interactions with employees are limited, efforts to really get to know who your team members are–understanding and appreciating their differences—go a long way to counteract the feelings of isolation and loneliness they may feel. Anyone’s mental health will benefit from being seen and heard as individuals, not anonymous productivity machines.
All this being said, the shift to remote work is still new for many, and most of us have already taken steps to adjust accordingly. Providing your team with an enjoyable work environment that takes into account their mental health is the end-goal. And as we continue to be presented with new information about the effects of remote working on mental health, our measures to support will need to accommodate new findings as well. It’s a process and a journey that we’ll continue to be on ourselves, right along with you.