Loneliness, conflicts, lack of trust, infertility, burnout risk, anxiety – these are just some of the topics that we have, over the past months, had in our own organisation, or facilitated for our clients. Mental wellbeing, at work and at home, is suffering. And indeed, the United Nations warned of a global mental health crisis looming in the wake of Covid-19. How can employers best support their employees in this reality?
When it comes to wellbeing, we often think about how to support the individual: five years ago wellbeing was about fresh fruit and yoga classes, now we’ve luckily evolved beyond that to mental health services, coaching, measurable tools. And these are indeed important, but employers should not stop there – we’re increasingly starting to understand how company culture drives wellbeing. As we prepare to return to the office at some point, now is a brilliant time to evaluate your approach to culture and wellbeing.
Here are 5 key areas of a culture of wellbeing:
1. Trust so much it hurts
Trust is THE defining factor of high performance: companies with high trust have +286% higher total return to shareholders compared to low trust organisations. In the beginning of the crisis we heard from employees who were forced to write daily “remote work reports”. Outch. Granted, trust is more difficult at a distance, especially if you are used to seeing your employees daily. But trust is more important than ever. How trusting is your company culture? Just saying it aloud can make a huge difference. Try saying “I trust you to make this decision”, “I trust this project to you”, or “I trust you to get it done, and let me know how I can help”.
2. Self-leadership revolution: from doing to results
Companies we’ve worked with have noticed this positive side-effect from the crisis: when you don’t see employees visually working, leaders must focus less on the doing, more on the results. In short, we need to resist the urge to micro-manage, and embrace self-leadership. What are you trying to achieve? What is the end result? Who is the owner? Set high performance standards and track results, not tasks. Keep your people accountable, but trust (and support) them to lead themselves.
3. Optimise remote and in-person
Innovation requires engagement, personal productivity loves solitude. Start to find the right balance in your meetings. Meetings are most effective when everyone contributes, and when some are in the same room and some remote, inclusion rarely happens. Critically evaluate your meetings: which ones will you continue to do remotely, and which ones benefit from in-person presence? Early morning or late afternoon calls: remotely, gives more personal flexibility. Status checks and reviews: remotely, makes us more effective. When you need to develop something new: in-person, innovation just loves company.
4. How are you? Keep the human touch for psychological safety
This crisis has clearly surfaced differences in personal life situation: while some have been alone in their apartment for weeks, others have managed three kids and two dogs 24/7. We’ve visited our colleagues’ bedrooms, literally, and bonded over unruly kids. Closeness breeds psychological safety, which is the #1 trait of high-performing teams. As we slowly return to work, how can you keep up the closeness? How can you make space for differences in life situation and working style? At Hintsa we’ve found that a simple round of “How are you?” in the beginning of team meetings are effective in adding the human touch and fostering collectivism.
5. Balance “one-size-fits-all” with “only-for-you”
Wellbeing is a brilliant social glue, but it is also deeply personal. A culture of wellbeing needs to strike a balance between what’s offered for everyone (make it simple & social), and what’s offered for those who truly need it (make it personalised). It doesn’t need to be complex: we’ve found one shared weekly session to be effective in our own organisation – body-friendly workouts and brain-friendly breaks facilitated by a coach or a specialist. Learning something new and sharing tips with your colleagues keeps the culture alive. And for those who really, truly need support: keep a low threshold and make it genuinely personalised and impactful. Some of your employees may be going through the most difficult phase in their life right now, and some of your key employees may be on the brink of burnout. Don’t let them down.
Take employee wellbeing as seriously as your strategy
This is not meant as an exhaustive list for a winning culture – we could talk all day about leadership, psychological safety, mastery climate, and so on. Our main point is this: you should take employee wellbeing as seriously as your strategy. The “soft stuff” doesn’t just happen, you need to make it happen. Great companies are born in bad economies, and brilliant employers are forged when culture is crumbling. Brilliant employers put people first and make wellbeing part of their dna – now more than ever.