Office Life has Changed —Here’s How to Address Wellness in the New Normal

By: Rebecca Glatt

As social beings who crave validation and thrive in cooperation, humans are not used to working in isolation. Adapting to our new work-from-home norm has been stressful for much of the workforce. People are craving social stimulation, worried about the future of their companies, and adapting to a new set of life and family demands.

During this time, it has been essential for companies to prioritize the health and wellbeing of their employees by actively talking about it, monitoring it and proactively offering resources to help. Unfortunately, this new set of challenges isn’t going away any time soon. The wellness initiatives you put in place today will continue to serve your employees as we work to navigate this new normal.

Here are a few tools to help you rethink how you address wellness:

Stay informed with regular pulse surveys 

In order to effectively support your team, you need to first establish a factual understanding of how they are faring. Don’t assume people are anxious. Believe it or not, some individuals react to change with increased engagement. Instead, implement a program through which you can regularly conduct pulse surveys across your entire team. That way, you can understand their sentiments and react accordingly.

Survey Monkey recently released a few survey templates to track employees’ wellbeing in general as well as their ability to work from home—excellent tools for obtaining feedback.

If you find that individuals in your organization are struggling, react accordingly. Make sure to follow up with your employees so they know you heard them and that you are responding accordingly. Never let a completed survey go unacknowledged.

Keep employees accountable with a peer-to-peer buddy system

When onboarding, companies often team up a new hire with a “culture facilitator” who can help them get up to speed and feel supported. If our new normal is going to require assorted work-from-home set ups, an ongoing peer-to-peer buddy system can be a great tool for continually checking in with your team.

“The key to monitoring the general wellbeing of employees is to encourage colleagues to watch out for each other,” Paul Bridgewater, CEO of ResMan, told Mainsail Partners.

It’s often easier for employees to open up to their peers than to their superiors, so this type of program can create a much-needed outlet for interaction. In addition to building potentially close bonds, a buddy system ensures the entire team is bought into the goal of encouraging the wellbeing of their peers.

Adjust leadership communications to meet the new normal

It will be a while before we can have frequent or spontaneous, in-person all-hands meetings. Keep building trust among your employees by providing transparent communications to your team using a method that reaches everyone equally, regardless of where they are working.

Ed Holmes, the CEO of FairWarning, recently told Mainsail Partners, “As CEO, I am sending a weekly communication that keeps everyone up to speed on the actions we are taking. This has been helpful as it builds a level of trust by balancing some things that are very promising with some reality of ‘no one will be immune to this challenge…not even us.’”

As Holmes is discovering, this is the time to be open and honest with your team. Check in more frequently and with shorter, focused meetings. That way, your team is less likely to feel isolated and more likely to feel valued and engaged.

Find ways to create meaningful connections

As “stay at home” restrictions begin to lift, some people will go back to a physical workplace, but many will be working virtually, in some capacity, for some time to come. With more people working from home, it is important to find ways to create meaningful connections that can break down the Zoom barrier.

A few ideas:

  • Schedule virtual coffee check-ins with people you wouldn’t normally check in with
  • Send handwritten notes to home addresses
  • Send care packages
  • If you were catering lunches, transfer those funds into an Uber Eats gift card
  • Schedule one meeting a week to be screen-free and encourage people to take it while going on a walk outside
  • Start meetings with five minutes of interesting conversation or an interactive game—an icebreaker to connect on a personal level
  • Schedule time for group wellness events: virtual workouts, meditation, lunches and happy hours can make a big difference

Build in cognitive breaks

In our normal office life, we naturally take many small breaks—walking between meetings, pouring coffee, swinging by a coworker’s desk—and it’s important to find ways to recreate those breaks when working from home.

Start by scheduling 15-minute breaks for your team, twice a day. Encourage people to walk, stretch or just reset. Make sure these breaks are used to regain energy and motivation—not to change tasks or tackle to-do lists.

Managers should lead by example here, making it clear that employees don’t need to squeeze everything into their lunch break, but rather giving explicit permission to take 20 minutes to take the dog for a walk, help the kids with school or run errands.

Encouraging breaks is especially important for employees who have suddenly become homeschool teachers and/or caregivers. Be sure you plan for, and welcome, interruptions for those who now find themselves working double-time.

Curate a list of at-home health and wellness resources

Make it as easy as possible for your team to understand and access the wellbeing resources that are available to them. This could be as simple as creating an employee benefit/resource guide so that overly burdened employees don’t have to search for answers to their questions. Reference and reinforce what is available frequently, via emails and team meetings.

One idea is to curate a list of at-home workout and wellness apps, such as:

For wellness apps, check out the following:

  • Calm: guided meditation, sleep meditation, movement/stretching videos
  • stoic.: journaling, breathing techniques, guided visualizations
  • TalkSpace: online therapy through text and video

To show your commitment to wellness, consider providing a stipend toward wellness-related activity. Include “physical and mental wellness” on your regular agendas for 1:1s. Or, implement an at-home health and wellness challenge.

Wellness Challenge: Here at Mainsail Partners, we are using an app called MyMission which collectively tracks our “steps” (running, biking, hiking). We have a shared goal to complete “7.5K miles in 30 Days”. If we reach that goal, we will donate money to a charity of our choice.

By prioritizing wellness, you can strengthen your culture long term

For most of Q1, we have been in a pandemic-induced state of shock. Many companies have been in survival mode. Now that a new normal is setting in, it is essential to continue to address and support your employees’ wellbeing, regardless of where they are working from. Check in consistently, find ways to break the Zoom barrier, and take care of your go-forward team.

What you do in these months following a crisis will build strong long-term relationships with your employees and will help you to solidify a healthy, happy and productive workforce for years to come.

Rebecca is a Talent Manager at Mainsail. She works closely with the VP of Talent to track, measure, enhance and evolve all recruiting efforts within the portfolio companies.
More by Rebecca Glatt
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