The last few months have been unusual to say the least. With the COVID-19 pandemic causing a global shift to remote working and lines between work and home blurred more than ever before, it’s become difficult for many of us to switch off from our screens and establish work-life boundaries.
Whether balancing home schooling, noisy neighbours, or simply a lack of human interaction, our work routines have changed dramatically almost overnight. But what effect is this having on the well-being of your employees and what can you do to provide additional support?
In this latest webinar, our panel of experts shared initiatives and advice for creating a distributed culture along with small changes we can implement into our daily routines to harness stress and prevent burn out during this time. We’ve shared some of the best insights from the webinar below in our 6 steps to building a distributed workforce culture.
#1 Establish some ground rules.
The number of team meetings and video calls we’re on each day has increased dramatically. The likes of Zoom & MS Teams have been a godsend during this time for collaboration & communication, but many of us will be guilty of experiencing ‘Zoom exhaustion.’ Establish expectations around participation during video calls and share these company wide to help reduce the pressures of feeling present.
-Keep your Slack/MS Teams online status up to date and block out your calendar for lunch & exercise breaks.
-Avoid back-to-back meetings. A ten minute grace period between meetings gives you the opportunity to get away from the desk and refresh your head space before the next meeting.
-Camera on or off? Interestingly our panel found that employees who worked from home before COVID by default go to video off in a call, whilst people new to working from home default to video on and insist on seeing each other during calls. Having your camera switched off doesn't mean you're less engaged, different calls require different formats. Set parameters and expectations for attendees.
#2 Adapt. Implement new initiatives to support your employees and alleviate some of the pressure.
We’re all experiencing a lot of uncertainty and many of us are afraid. Fear and anxiety cause us to go into survival and stress mode, which means we’re not at our full capacity to be productive, resourceful or creative. Taking a flexible and empathetic approach to work schedules and managing expectations among teams will help relieve pressures for employees as they juggle home pressures alongside their work.
Here are some examples of initiatives introduced by MoneySuperMarket & MOO throughout lockdown:
-No such thing as "core working hours": work as and when you can, whether it be 6am, 10pm or the weekend.
-'Covid Care Leave’: A voluntary furlough scheme for people with young children/key workers in the family
-Freedom pot: £150 for every employee to help set up their home working environment or go towards personal well-being or learning courses
-Mental health first-aiders
-Create different support channels for people to join - a parents' channel to share hacks to keep the kids busy, a craft channel, a cooking channel, a cute animal channel, somewhere people can communicate with people from different areas of the business about a shared interest
-Put a fun spin on every all hands: have the children host one week, a different weekly theme with fancy dress or try incorporating exercise. These are good moments to bring the whole team together to share information and communicate with everyone so no one is left out, but also to incorporate some fun and team building.
#3 Reflect & communicate.
Encourage your team to check in with themselves at the end of each week. To look at the demands in the week ahead versus the resources available and their stress levels. There’s a difference between feeling challenged & feeling threatened, and feeling threatened can ultimately lead to burn out.
Go a step further and make it a policy. Encourage your employees to reflect and speak out if they feel their balance is out of whack. Reaching out isn’t a sign of being weaker, it’s the opposite. Create a mature environment where it’s ok not to be ok and to ask for help.
-Online 1-1 meditation sessions at lunch
‘Me Time’ – 8 hours every week taken out of working time to do something not work related.
Chair Yoga - exercises to help keep the strain off our lower backs as we find ourselves stuck to our seats for the majority of the day.
The absence of an office environment has made us realise how much we value those impromptu conversations in the kitchen whilst making a coffee or waiting to use the microwave. Interactions that are usually organic have had to be manufactured through video calls and instant messaging. Create a culture that recreates the naturalness of the ‘water cooler’ interaction.
-Asynchronous check ins: At the end of the week share your win, whinge and hack of the week on a Slack channel. You can submit it at any time and with the help of emojis and GIFs to summarise how your week has been. Have fun scrolling through others on a Friday afternoon to see what everyone has been up to during the week.
#4 Establish a daily routine.
Stress Transformation Coach Mica explains that you can start your day commanding it or you can start by being at the mercy of it. Try to implement these three things into your morning routine to boost your mood & productivity:
1. Hack your human negativity bias by making your first interaction everyday intentional gratitude or laughter.
‘We made a rule where the first thing we do when we see each other in the morning is we laugh, whether it be because my husband snores or I’ve kicked him during the night. This overrides the surge of adrenalin you get first thing in the morning and sets you up for the day.’
2. Take at least 5 minutes a day for yourself. Whether it be getting up slightly earlier before the kids wake up, going for a walk or getting some exercise. By getting your exercise done first thing when you wake up, you’ll find you’re more likely to do it rather than making excuses.
3. Work in intervals - set yourself a time interval to work and then take a break. This will improve your energy physically and emotionally by taking yourself away from your desk and allowing you to refocus.
‘Multi-tasking doesn’t work! The more we focus on single tasks and the more intentional we are about what we have to do, the happier we’ll be and the better our performance will be.’
#5 Use this time to instil positive habits.
The chances of us returning to business as it was before are slim. Businesses need to be creative and innovative moving forward as we transition towards the future of a more distributed work culture.
Having a remote-first mindset will open out a huge pool of talent companies couldn’t access before. Having the flexibility to allow employees to work where they work best, whether that be in the office or back in their home town, will make employees happier and potential candidates more excited about your employer brand. Workforces will become more diverse and inclusive and organisations will have a high degree of resilience should anything like this ever happen again.
#6 Be kind.
As we navigate through this transition period over the next 18 months, it’s important to create a culture of respect for everyone’s different personal circumstances and appetite for risk. People will have very different opinions on the prospect of going back to work. Managers need to be aware of and understand individual circumstances. Empathy is key to managing remote teams effectively.
The equation for success is deceptively simple. It boils down to communication and transparency among your teams. High touch points, listening to each other and understanding that every individual's lockdown experience is completely different with its own set of challenges.
A massive thank you to our panel for their time and insights:
Michelle Coventry, VP People at Five.ai
Francesca Crossley, TA Partner & Employer Brand Specialist at MoneySupermarket
David Barker, VP People & Talent at Paddle
Mica Vaipan, Stress Transformation & Well-being Coach at new | baseline
Marta Jasinska, CTO at MOO
Our next webinar on Wednesday 17th June will be exploring how to Attract, Recruit & Onboard a Diverse Workforce.
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