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5 workplace accommodations to help every employee thrive

As an employer, it’s part of your job to give employees all the tools they need to thrive. Without these tools, it can lead to lower employee happiness, a toxic company culture, reduced productivity, and less revenue. That doesn’t have to be the case, though. Simple workplace accommodations can make a huge difference to how well someone can perform their role. 

Let’s take a look at some workplace accommodations you could make to help your employees thrive.

Buy better equipment

The right equipment can dramatically change how well someone does their job. 

The wrong type of laptop, a screen that’s too large or too small, a non-ergonomic mouse and keyboard, a desk at the wrong height, a chair with little to no support…all these things may sound small and inconsequential, but they can lead to physical pain, eye strain, and frustration.

My RSI—which has been dormant for about five years—recently returned because I stopped using my ergonomic mouse for a few days and didn’t use my trackpad properly. I’m now having to wear a thumb support as I type this. None of that would’ve happened if I’d just kept using my proper desk setup.

Obviously, that’s my own fault. But you decide what equipment your employees use. You can choose to buy the cheapest available, or you can pick equipment that will help employees’ current injuries and prevent future ones.

Offer more flexible hours

The traditional working hours of nine to five don’t actually have any scientific basis. They started back in the 1800s, then Henry Ford brought in the 40-hour workweek that we know so well.

However, some jobs don’t really need someone to work five days a week, or to be present during the usual hours of nine to five.

Some employees are more productive later in the day, or earlier in the day. Do you really want to miss out on employees’ most productive hours because of a rigid policy you’re doing just because that’s what everyone else does?

Parents often prefer more flexible hours as it makes it easier for them to take their children to school and pick them up at the end of the day. Whether they’re in the office or not, flexible hours gives them more time with their children. It also opens you up to a wider talent pool with less competition. It’s one of the simple workplace accommodations that can drive both recruitment and retention.

Experiment with four-day weeks

Some businesses are now trialing four-day work weeks while still paying employees for five days. It’s been suggested this can improve employee mental wellbeing and productivity.

I’ve spoken to people who work for companies with four-day weeks and have found that the fears some businesses have about it are often unfounded. In fact, many employees become more productive. It also improves employee experience and wellness.

I’m sure we’ve all seen it—people who don’t efficiently use their time at work because they don’t have enough work to fill their hours. So that employee ends up aimlessly scrolling on social media, distracting their colleagues, organizing unnecessary meetings, or even working on personal projects to fill their time. 

This lack of work—which could be remedied by shorter hours—can lead to boredom and stress.

Shorter time constraints mean employees can be more motivated to get things done. 

More time at home to spend with loved ones, work on hobbies, and just relax, also means they get to recharge. This can help employees feel more able to handle whatever their job throws at them.

Try a new software

There are lots of organizational programs out there designed to help us tackle our to-do lists.

Sometimes a program doesn’t fit with how we think, or we struggle with the interface. If an employee struggles with how you’re organizing things in an app like Trello, Asana, or TickTick, consider trying something else or changing how you use it. This will help them to better organize their own to-do list and get more done.

The same applies to social media scheduling apps, employee advocacy tools, and any other software you use. Just because it’s the tool that’s always been used, it doesn’t mean it’s still the best one for the job. Making workplace accommodations can be as simple as better orienting systems to the way your team works.

Adapt your training sessions

A training session that involves someone reading from a slide is going to be memorable for all the wrong reasons. Hint: it’s unlikely to be because of the content.

There’s no way you can offer a training session that works for everyone. It can help though to offer sessions in a variety of ways including written, video, and audio. This will ensure that you can reach as many employees as possible.

Making training more interactive with quizzes or activities will also help employees to understand the material. It will help them get the most out of a session, too. 

Subscribe to industry publications

What industry publications could you subscribe to that would help your employees? 

Industry publications are at the forefront of your industry for a reason. Giving employees access to those resources—free and paid—will help them to be aware of what’s happening and what’s coming up. This will give them the upper hand over competitors.

They also won’t need to use their own money to research the latest industry updates. This will save them crucial dollars as the cost of living continues to rise.

Conclusion 

Workplace accommodations can include anything from a new chair to better training. 

To find out what your employees need, ask them. Encourage them to come to you if something isn’t working for them.

If they feel dissatisfied because of small adaptations you can make, but feel like they can’t request those changes, it’s going to affect their productivity.

If you don’t tell them that they can approach you with these issues, it’s unlikely that they’ll bother. They’ll probably just leave instead, increasing your employee churn rate because of a basic problem.

On the other hand, if you encourage them to come to you, and make the workplace accommodations quickly, they’re more likely to feel supported and want to stay.

If you’re looking for a better way to connect with employees and keep the lines of communication open, check out Workrowd. Our one-stop platform makes it easy to give team members a voice, and distribute important communications on how to access various workplace accommodations. Send an email to hello@workrowd.com to learn more.

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6 tips for building & scaling an amazing remote work culture

I was listening to a podcast recently, and the host mentioned how hard it is to scale company culture remotely. That’s why a lot of businesses want employees back in the office; they don’t believe it’s possible to successfully build a remote work culture. 

And I get it. Because it is hard to scale culture remotely and get people to truly believe what you’re saying.

However, it is possible. Otherwise, people wouldn’t rally around, and in, online communities, whether that’s the indie publishing community, dog nutrition communities, self-improvement, or something else. 

Each of these communities has their own unique culture and atmosphere based on the beliefs and attitudes of the people who run them.

And if those communities can scale their cultures, there’s hope for your business, too. 

Here are some tips to help you build and scale a remote work culture.

Make it clear what you stand for

The earlier you can define what you stand for, the easier it is for you to find and attract people who buy into your mission, beliefs, and goals. The more clearly you can communicate this, the more likely people will be to want to be a part of it, and the easier it will be to scale.

Sometimes what you stand for is a natural part of your business. Perhaps you want to disrupt a particular industry, or offer a new form of help for a group of people. Other times, you have a product or service, but the rest is kind of murky.

It can help to sit down and think about the patterns in your life and your business. What drew you to this industry and organization? Why are you compelled to solve the problems that you do? Starting there, and really getting to the root of it, can push you to find what you’re looking for. This will give you a strong basis for building your remote work culture.

Write things down

Having documents explaining how situations should be handled will make your life easier long term. 

Say, for example, an employee gets pregnant. If you don’t have a policy on maternity leave, you now have to scramble to create one. 

But if you already have one, everyone knows what to expect, maybe even before they’re hired. 

This will help you attract candidates who are a better fit and prevent panic when a new situation arises. 

While you may think “XYZ will never happen here” you can never be too careful. If a business lasts long enough, you’ll encounter most things at some point.

Set an example

You’re a leader. It’s your job to set an example not just to the outside world, but to your employees, too. 

If you want employees to communicate with each other, it starts with you communicating with them. 

They’ll copy your communication style, which means that if you come across as aloof and disconnected, they’ll feel like they can’t be themselves at work and must approach it with some level of emotional detachment.

On the other hand, if you’re warm and empathetic, employees will mimic that, showing their colleagues, and hopefully themselves, more compassion in the workplace. This will lead to a far more welcoming culture for new employees and mean any employees experiencing hardship will find some of the vital support they need from their colleagues. You set the tone for your company’s remote work culture.

Hold catch-up calls

Regularly catching up with employees is a good way to show you’re not just a faceless owner, CEO, or manager. You really do care about them and what’s going on in their lives. More importantly, you want to know what they think about the company. 

This can help you spot problems early on, and establish an open, communicative remote work culture.

Keep your feet on the ground

There’s nothing worse than someone running a business when their head is floating in the clouds. It’s hard to see and breathe up there, which means you won’t be as productive and you won’t know what’s actually happening on the ground. 

You’ll become detached from your employees. Worse, you’ll have no idea if your remote work culture is actually shaping up to be what you want it to be. (If you’re that far away from things, it probably won’t be.)

Meet up in person (if/when you can)

Many remote businesses have periodic meet ups where everyone from the company can get together. Or, for larger, global, businesses, for those within a certain area or country to get together.

While this isn’t vital for remote workers, it can be a way to reinvigorate disconnected employees, generate new ideas, form new partnerships, and find new ways to move the company forward.

If this isn’t possible, try to find a way to connect remotely instead. 

Maybe you have a couple of hours once a month where employees can quiz you, or where you talk about the future of the business. 

Then, employees can split off into break-out rooms to discuss their thoughts and come up with ideas. These smaller group discussions can be a great way for employees to meet new people and brainstorm new ideas.

Virtual escape rooms, quiz nights, and book clubs are other examples of ways for employees to connect remotely.

Conclusion 

Just because it can be difficult to build and scale a remote work culture, that doesn’t make it impossible. 

For it to work, you need to use some of the very same skills that all successful leaders have: creativity, consistency, and determination. 

It takes time to establish a remote work culture, but it can stick to a company for a very long time. 

Change management is hard. So, the earlier you work on the type of remote work culture you want, the greater the difference you’ll see.

One additional element that can be crucial to scaling your remote work culture is to have the right tools in place. You’ll need to build transparency around employee groups, programs, events, and other happenings across the company. Make sure that everyone is in the loop and can connect with each other, no matter where or when they work.

Workrowd makes this easy with a central location for all employees to see what’s coming up, alongside automated data tracking and analytics. This way, you always know how your efforts are impacting your remote work culture.

Don’t invest time and money into employee initiatives that your team members never hear about. Drop by workrowd.com to learn more or email us at hello@workrowd.com today.

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Creative retention ideas for employees that will slow turnover

With employment rates increasing, and therefore a lower number of candidates for open roles, retaining employees and slowing turnover is more important than ever. Here are nine creative retention ideas for employees to help you keep your top talent:

1. Open communication

How much do you really share with your employees? Do you encourage them to share things with each other?

I’m not saying you have to share the specific details of your most embarrassing moments, but you should let employees know that they can share with you what’s going on with them and you won’t judge them or hold personal information against them.

2. Get rid of so-called ‘perks’

So-called perks like foosball tables, nap pods, and even chefs sound great. But in a lot of cases, they’re really just a way for businesses to keep their employees at work for longer. Which isn’t cool.

Employees deserve personal lives and time with their loved ones. Work shouldn’t take away from that.

Stop providing perks so that you can pay less for more work. Start paying employees for all of their contributions instead.

3. Pay more

It surprises me how many businesses I know of that believe they can get away with paying below market rate because they have so-called perks. 

On the surface these things can seem like a selling point, but when you look at the rising cost of living, many employees—and candidates—don’t want these shiny things anymore. They want to be paid what they’re worth at a company whose mission they can get behind.

4. Allow them to explore their interests

Allowing employees to explore their interests on company time—particularly when they’re relevant to their job—can be a great way to encourage them to stay. 

Studying can be expensive. Investing in your employees’ development shows you care about them and believe they have a long-term future working with you. Not only does this approach offer creative retention ideas for employees, but it also brings other benefits such as upskilling as well.

5. Let them move departments

Sometimes, boredom strikes. Employees may decide they want a new direction.

Instead of letting them go, you could offer them the opportunity to move departments. Maybe they’d like to do something more technical and would make a great junior developer, or they want to try a more customer-facing role and would be super at sales.

You should never underestimate the soft skills employees possess, or their company knowledge. They can be real assets to helping you achieve your business goals.

6. Be transparent

I feel like many companies talk about transparency, but then hide a lot of their figures from employees. That’s not transparency. 

Transparency is sharing everything: the good, the bad, and the ugly. This shows employees that everyone within the business is human, and that not every day is filled with rainbows. 

It can motivate employees to up their game, make them feel more included, and encourage more communication between everyone because the higher ups are communicating what, in some businesses, is a closely guarded secret.

7. Let them post on social media

Many businesses have social media policies that start and end with “don’t post about work on social media.” This is a really boring mindset, implies you don’t trust your employees, and shows you don’t understand social media.

Employee social media accounts can be incredibly powerful tools to market your business. Much more powerful than branded accounts.

For instance, 78% of salespeople who use social media outsell their peers.

Training people on how to use social media for sales or employee advocacy could be just the new skill they need to encourage them to stay.

You’ll never be able to monitor everything employees say on social media, which means that allowing them to share their thoughts about work says to the outside world that you trust your employees. 

This reflects well, attracts a higher caliber of candidate, and builds on the open atmosphere you’ve already established. This is one of the creative retention ideas for employees that is often overlooked.

8. Be flexible and accessible

Quite often, businesses claim to be flexible and accessible until someone comes along with a health condition, or personal situation, that doesn’t fit with their current way of operating. This can lead to the employee, if they get hired, having issues. Or it could mean you get a negative review from a candidate on a site like Glassdoor.

You don’t have to have all the answers–if you’re not differently abled, you won’t know what it’s like until someone talks about it with you, and every person’s situation is different—but being open to adapting how you do things is key. 

Saying one thing but doing another won’t fly any longer. Candidates and employees will see through it and, over time, you’ll find it harder to fill roles and your churn rate will get worse.

9. Treat employees with respect

Your employees are not automatons, robots, or AI. They all need to eat, sleep, and use the bathroom. 

Forcing them to eat at their desks, or limiting their bathroom breaks, shows a lack of respect for their very existence. It also says that you don’t value their health. 

There’s never a reason someone should have to eat at their desk. Meetings can wait an hour for someone to eat a decent meal.

Beauty Pie takes this so seriously that they have a “no meetings o’clock” scheduled into everyone’s calendars so that they get a break during the day. 

Employees deserve respect. And they deserve time to themselves. If they do their job to a high standard, that’s all that matters.

Of course, if you feel something is amiss, talk to them. But do it from a place of compassion, not accusation. You’ll get a better response and come out with a better solution.

Conclusion 

Retaining employees is about more than just offering them shiny objects and a fancy office. Those perks are becoming increasingly transparent to a savvy workforce of people who don’t want to be superglued to a desk, laptop, or phone. 

Instead, leverage some of these creative retention ideas for employees. Your team members want flexibility, respect, and fair pay. The more you prioritize these things, the more likely you’ll be to attract the top candidates in your industry and retain them.

If you’re looking to implement several of these creative retention ideas for employees with one tool, Workrowd can help. Our platform makes it easy to streamline communications; market, manage, and measure employee interest groups, programs, and events; cultivate real relationships, and more. Drop by our site or send us an email at hello@workrowd.com to learn more.

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How to support employees who are feeling lonely at work

It’s been a tough couple of years for socializing. From pandemic lockdowns to remote work, building and maintaining relationships has become more difficult than ever. Unsurprisingly, this has led to many more people feeling lonely at work.

This isn’t just bad news for those individuals, though; it’s also bad for business. According to research done by Gallup, when women have a best friend at work, they’re twice as likely to be engaged as those who don’t. And the social aspect is a “major reason” why two-thirds of women work.

It’s not surprising when you consider that 32% of adults worry something will happen to them and nobody will notice. The same proportion feel they have no one to turn to.

Our working lives can play a huge role in how lonely we feel. Colleagues can become an important part of our support network. Not connecting with them on a social level can be isolating and lead to feeling lonely at work and in life.

What can you do to support employees who feel lonely at work? Let’s take a look.

Encourage open communication

When you can’t talk to your colleagues about your feelings, it’s hard not to feel lonely at work. 

One way to combat this is to support an open culture where conversations about mental health are welcome and encouraged.

The less someone feels able to discuss what’s on their mind, the more isolated—and therefore lonely—they’re going to feel.

Leaders within the organization set this example by how they talk about their own experiences. You don’t have to go into graphic detail, but letting employees know you really do understand can go a long way towards convincing them you’ll listen.

Educate employees—and yourself

The sad truth is that most of us aren’t taught how to look after ourselves or others through traditional education. This is despite it being an important part of having happy, healthy relationships.

It’s therefore important to do what you can to educate yourself and your employees around managing mental health. It’s also critical to know what to look for in others. 

The more employees who are trained on what to look for, the more open people will be about mental health. They’ll also be more able to spot signs in their colleagues and offer them the help they need.

Not only that, but they’ll be able to spot the symptoms in themselves. From there, they can explore how to mitigate and treat those feelings.

Have a buddy system

Buddy systems can be really good to help new employees navigate what can be complex hierarchical and social structures within a business. It ensures they have someone to talk to without worrying about asking their boss too many questions. Having even one person to go to can make a big difference when it comes to feeling lonely at work.

Encourage employees to create ERGs

Employee resource groups are a great way for employees to meet their colleagues. This is especially important in larger businesses where they may only regularly deal with members of their immediate team. Employees will be more likely to meet people they have things in common with through ERGs. This can make it easier for them to form friendships and not feel lonely at work.

Show employees you appreciate them

A little appreciation goes a long way. Show employees you appreciate them with a simple thank you, a small gift, or a shoutout in a meeting. The impact on people’s confidence may surprise you.

Hold regular retreats

Regular, in-person retreats can be a great way for remote teams to get to know each other. They can even help in finding solutions to complex problems.

When organizing retreats, be mindful of who’s going and what’s involved. Say you have a wheelchair user, the last activity you want to offer is rock climbing with no alternative. That will definitely make them feel lonely at work and even less like their colleagues understand them.

It can help to have a wide variety of socializing activities during the retreat. That way, there’s something for everyone.

 Try to include employees when asking for ideas, too. They may well come up with things you hadn’t, and they’ll feel appreciated just because you listened to their ideas.

Organize social activities

Activities don’t just have to be for retreats. You can do smaller ones every so often, too.

These could be online, in person, or a combination, depending on where your employees are based.

Everything from a book club to a quiz night can help employees to bond.

Let them be themselves

Most businesses are afraid of letting employees be themselves while talking about the business on social media. This then translates into employees being wary about how they talk about work to their colleagues. And reinforces feelings of isolation and being lonely at work.

Some employees may also come from a background where they’re not accepted for who they are. This could be because of their sexuality, race, religion, disability, or something else. 

Encouraging employees to be themselves—and embrace that—will grow their confidence. This can then help them find more like-minded people who really do understand them. 

They’ll also feel more comfortable in their role and want to stick around because work has become much more than just a job for them. 

And that’s something that a lot of people really want.

They’re not just looking to pay the bills. They want to make a difference in the world, and spend time with people they actually like. They want to work smarter, not harder.

Conclusion

Feeling lonely at work is a bigger issue than many business owners realize because we simply don’t talk about it. And if we don’t talk about it, that means it doesn’t exist, right?

Ah, if only.

It’s only when we talk about something that we realize how prevalent an issue is, and we start to consider what we can do about it.

And, as we’ve explored in this post, there’s plenty that businesses can do to support employees who feel lonely at work.

Providing a dedicated space for employees to connect, whether they’re remote, hybrid, or on-site, is important. If you’re interested in how technology can help your team members build real, authentic connections, drop by Workrowd.com. We’ve got a suite of tools to boost engagement and retention, and support anyone who feels lonely at work. Write us at hello@workrowd.com to learn more.

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Top tips for practicing mindfulness at work

The idea of mindfulness at work may sound like a bit of a contradiction. Mindfulness and work don’t necessarily go together in many people’s heads.

There are so many things to do, how can you possibly be in the moment enough to be mindful? And why should you?

Well, it turns out that practicing mindfulness at work can benefit you while you’re working, and when you get home (or turn your work laptop off for the day).

Mindfulness at work can reduce stress levels, help us solve problems better, lower blood pressure, improve gastrointestinal issues, and even relax aching joints that come from sitting at a desk all day.

So, with that in mind, why wouldn’t you want to practice mindfulness at work?

Here are some ways you can be more mindful at work, and encourage your employees to be, too.

Single task

An ability to multi-task is often seen as impressive. Some people wear it as a badge of honor. It can also make us feel more productive. 

But, in actual fact, those of us who multi-task are less productive

Multi-tasking makes you more prone to errors because you’re not giving something your full attention. Meaning you’re more likely to make silly mistakes that you wouldn’t normally. It can also increase your stress levels as you hop from one task to the next.

It takes our brains a while to focus on a task. Jumping from one to another and back again means you never get the chance to reach a state of flow. That’s where you focus on something you find equally engaging and challenging. It’s a great way to grow your skills and feel a sense of achievement.

However, if you’re multi-tasking, that isn’t going to happen. It’ll be harder to learn new things and you may find you get less done because you’re not fully concentrating.

Single tasking is a great way to practice mindfulness at work because your only focus is whatever you’re working on right now. Reaching a state of flow means you can get more done, the workday will go faster, and what you do will be of a higher quality.

Listen to music or soundscapes

The noises around us can have a huge impact on how we feel. Meditation music, classical music, or soundscapes can really help us be present and focus on the task at hand. 

Studies have even shown that listening to classical music can increase productivity.

There are lots of videos on YouTube for this, and they range from hip-hop music to coffee shop noise. Or you can just ask your smart speaker to play some meditation/classical music.

Be present in your body

Another part of mindfulness at work is paying attention to your body. Sitting at a desk all day can be bad for your posture. 

When you’re in tune with your body, you’ll be more likely to notice when something has become misaligned, you’re sitting differently, or you feel uncomfortable.

While those smartwatch reminders to get up every hour can be annoying, they’re there for a reason—movement is your friend! It’s what stops your joints from seizing up and can pull you back to the present moment.

When the reminder goes off, go make a drink, use the restroom, or just walk up and down the stairs. These small movements can make a big difference to how our joints feel, as well as to our long-term posture.

Eat away from your desk

When you eat at your desk, or even while watching TV, you pay less attention to what you’re eating. It takes 20 minutes for our brains to realize when we’re full. If you’re not eating mindfully, you’re more likely to keep eating even if you’re full, and you’re also more likely to absentmindedly snack.

If you work from home, consider using your lunch break to cook yourself something fresh. Focus on the process and how the ingredients work together.

Then, when you’re eating, pay attention to what you’re eating. How does it feel? What does it smell like? What sounds does it make? Considering how food impacts your senses will keep you in the moment. This will help you feel calmer and enjoy your meal.

Listen to your mind and body

If you’re struggling to concentrate on something, or you’re feeling fidgety, don’t force yourself to push through. A five-minute break could be all you need. 

Mindfulness at work is all about paying attention to the signals our minds and bodies send to us. 

We don’t always have to act on them, but sometimes, acting on that need for a break can allow us to return to a problem with a fresh perspective and finally solve it. It can also calm our nerves before a big presentation.

Educate your team

While mindfulness is becoming increasingly popular, there are still people who wrinkle their noses at the concept and think it’s woowoo or just not for them. 

However, many of the people who feel this way don’t know what it actually is. It’s therefore important to show your team what mindfulness at work is, how it could benefit them, and ways they can incorporate it into their day.

You could do this through a short training exercise, or by setting an example yourself. Mention that you take meditation breaks or that you eat away from your desk. 

Employees follow the examples their leaders set. The small steps you take set the precedent for everyone else on your team.

Conclusion 

There are simple actions you can take every day to practice mindfulness at work, and to encourage your employees to do so, too. 

Over time, this can become part of a team’s or company’s culture, helping employees to feel calmer at work. This will ultimately make them better at problem solving and happier in their roles.

If you want to cultivate more mindfulness at work, consider starting a mindfulness and/or meditation group. Employee groups are a valuable tool in the effort to drive culture change, and Workrowd provides an easy way to launch, manage, and measure them. Send us a message at hello@workrowd.com to learn more.

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7 key drivers of mental wellbeing in the workplace

Mental wellbeing in the workplace should be a priority for all businesses all year round, not just during Mental Health Awareness Month.

When you show employees that you really do value their mental wellbeing in the workplace, they’re going to be more loyal. They may then refer candidates when you’re hiring, which is one of the best ways to bring in new employees. They’ll also stick around for longer, and be able to deliver better work.

But how can you support mental wellbeing in the workplace? We’ve listed out seven simple ways below to get you started.

Prioritize health

It’s all too common for employees to push themselves to the point of burnout to achieve a deadline. If they regularly feel the need to do this at your company, it’s a sign of a toxic work culture

Chances are, employees feel like they have to follow the example set by the higher-ups, meaning they feel pressured to achieve tight (maybe almost impossible) deadlines.

This doesn’t have to be the case, though.

You don’t have to push employees to the point of burnout to achieve deadlines. You can prioritize their health and still get things done. It’s about pushing back when clients or colleagues demand tight schedules that you know are unsustainable. 

If you explain that the deadline is impossible and mental wellbeing in the workplace is important, people will be impressed by your integrity and how much you stand up for your employees. It will earn you a lot of points inside, and outside, of your business.

Make space for quiet

Most open-plan offices are so noisy it can be difficult to concentrate, especially if someone is sensitive to noise because of ADHD, autism, fibromyalgia, or another condition. It can be hard to block out the noise, but not everyone works well with, or likes to work wearing, headphones.

Having somewhere quiet to work can really help employees concentrate.

This applies to working from home, too, because constant Slack or Teams notifications can distract employees from deep work. This is especially true if they feel like they have to respond right away every time they get a message.

It’s important to foster a culture where employees don’t feel the need to be so reactive. Reactivity can be bad for anxiety, depression, and other mental health conditions, all of which can affect mental wellbeing in the workplace.

Be flexible

Working from home and flexible working are two of the biggest trends to come out of the pandemic. 

Yet many businesses are now demanding employees come back, claiming it makes them more collaborative. Without any basis to that other than managers’ preferences.

76% of American homemakers would return to work if they could work from home, and 74% would if a job had flexible hours. 

97% of homemakers are women, all of whom have skills, knowledge, and backgrounds that your competitors are missing out on. And which could help to differentiate your business both when hiring and creating products.

So, which is more important? Someone sitting in a chair right next to you, or innovating to stand out from your competition?

Trust your employees

It’s actually a little baffling how few businesses trust their employees. Even in local government.

A UK cabinet officer recently left notes saying, “Sorry you were out when I visited. I look forward to seeing you in the office very soon,” on the desks of employees who weren’t in the office.

Obviously, some more old-fashioned managers and businesses dislike employees working from home. 

But to say that it makes people less productive and that they can’t be trusted feels more like forcing beliefs on them when the studies say otherwise.

Employees are more productive when working from home, and if you can’t trust them…well, that’s a very different issue, isn’t it?

Remember that everyone is different

Just because one solution worked for someone with autism, that doesn’t mean it’ll work for another autistic person. The same goes for employees with anxiety, migraines, or any other health condition that can impact their work.

Everyone’s health conditions are different.

Take fibromyalgia, which I have—there are over 200 symptoms. Not everyone experiences the same ones, or feels them to the same severity. That means the solutions that work for me probably won’t work for someone else.

So, instead of telling employees what you’re going to do to “help” them, ask them what they need. It’ll show them that you really are prioritizing mental wellbeing in the workplace, not just treating the conversation with them—and their role in the business—as a box-ticking exercise.

Cultivate a diverse workforce

Diverse workforces are happier and more productive. They’re also better at problem solving and making bigger strides towards environmental goals.

So, having a diverse workforce can go a long way towards supporting mental wellbeing in the workplace. Employees will feel more able to find colleagues they’re comfortable talking to, even if they don’t see those people on a daily basis. 

If you have ERGs within your business, they may find colleagues in there that they can talk to as well. 

The more diverse your workforce is, the more likely it will be for people to have someone who understands them and can help and support them in whatever way they need.

Train new habits

Old habits only change when it’s explained to people how and why they’re bad, then they’re presented with a solution or new way of thinking. This mindset shift still takes time to happen, though.

Consider those who still prefer employees to be in the office over working remotely—most will only change that opinion when they see that it doesn’t impact employees’ ability to perform in their roles outside of a pandemic.

However, not everyone will be open to changing their way of thinking. While mindsets can change, the more fixed someone’s mindset is, the harder it will be for them to even consider an alternative view.

Cultural change can only happen if employees are encouraged to have a growth mindset and be curious. It also helps when mistakes are treated as a learning experience, not something that could get them reprimanded.

The more rigid the workplace culture is, the harder it will be to drive any sort of change. This closed-mindedness can have a serious negative impact on mental wellbeing in the workplace.

Conclusion 

You don’t have to make gigantic changes to support mental wellbeing in the workplace. Sometimes it’s as simple as being flexible.

Of course, some of these changes do take longer, like encouraging new habits and getting rid of toxic mentalities. But given the benefits to employees in the short- and long-term, isn’t it worth it?

If you want to show your team members that mental wellbeing in the workplace is a priority for you, take a look at Workrowd. Our all-in-one culture and engagement platform helps you manage initiatives like ERGs and wellness programs, while providing employees opportunities to build real connections. Plus, you’ll get real-time analytics to easily track how your efforts are impacting mental wellbeing in the workplace. Drop us a note at hello@workrowd.com to learn more.

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Employee resource group examples & when to form them

We spend most of our waking lives with our colleagues. In many cases, much more time than we spend with our loved ones. Support from colleagues can therefore be essential to employee happiness, satisfaction, and retention. Community is key, which is why these employee resource group examples are so effective.

Employee resource groups (ERGs) have been around since the 1960s. Today, more than 90% of Fortune 500 companies offer them. I find it hard to believe they’d be so popular in such large companies if they didn’t help employees and businesses achieve their goals.

In this post, we’re going to explore the most common employee resource group examples you’ll see in businesses. We’ll also explain why they’re important for your diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts.

But first, let’s look at what an ERG is, and what its role in a business is:

What is an employee resource group (ERG)?

ERGs are employee-led groups, where employees who have something in common come together. This could be a shared value, passion, background, or culture. 

Employee resource group examples may include communities for women, people of color, differently-abled employees, parents, or veterans.

ERGs help to foster a diverse and inclusive working environment. Outcomes include supporting employees in their internal and external goals, helping them to network with potential mentors, and giving them an opportunity to socialize with colleagues.

As ERGs are employee-led, they’re often created informally. Over time, the business may offer them budget towards things like activities. Typically, the employee leaders of the ERG will manage these funds.

It’s worth businesses encouraging ERGs because they can help to drive inclusion goals. How better to show you support belonging than encouraging employees to network with those who have similar experiences to them? That’s why it’s so important to have a range of ERGs for team members to join.

That being said, it isn’t the job of ERGs to drive diversity, equity, and inclusion objectives. They can be part of the strategy, but it’s up to business leaders to create and follow your DEI policy. 

Leaders set examples from the top down. If managers aren’t practicing what they preach, employees are less likely to care about your DEI efforts.

What are the benefits of ERGs for businesses?

The ERGs within a business can reflect the company’s values a lot more than a cookie cutter DEI statement

While it isn’t an ERG’s job to drive any DEI policy, they can set an example. They can help you identify where to focus your DEI efforts, and which areas are in need of improvement.

ERGs are great for celebrating your employees and underrepresented groups within your workforce. They can encourage other people from these groups to join because they know that they’ll have friends and allies within your business.

Allies can also use their existing privilege for good, both inside and outside of the workplace.

What are the benefits of ERGs for employees?

ERGs help employees connect with colleagues who share something in common with them. They provide a sense of community, which can help people find their purpose and confidence in the workplace.

The fact that they’re set up informally, or often have an informal atmosphere to them, can be refreshing. This is particularly true in businesses that are larger, more formal, or may be perceived as old-fashioned.

The most common ERGs

Companies often establish their ERGs in a predictable order. Most will start with a women’s group, to support and encourage women in the workplace. 

Next is likely to be a group for Black employees or people of color. Organizations may create an LGTBQ+ group around the same time.

The employee resource group examples after this point tend to vary based on the company’s demographics. Groups may include:

  • AAPI
  • Latinx
  • Indigenous
  • Veterans/military
  • Parents/caregivers
  • Mental health
  • Dis/differently abled
  • Faith-based (often interfaith)
  • Age-based (e.g. young professionals, seasoned professionals, intergenerational)
  • Region/location-based groups

As you can see, there are a wide range of employee resource group examples organizations can create to drive belonging.

Over time, some of these groups may break away to form smaller groups or related groups, depending on what their goals are.

Because ERGs are employee-run, and can require minimal business involvement at least at first, there’s no limit to how many ERGs a business can have. The more you have, the more it can reflect and support the diversity of your workforce. 

It may even attract more diverse employees if they see how diverse your workforce is already. 

After all, candidates are more likely to be attracted to roles in a business that demonstrates and encourages diversity, and where they can see people like them working already. They’ll feel confident the organization will welcome and support them, whether that’s as a cleaner or a manager.

Conclusion 

While it isn’t the job of an ERG to build any sort of diversity policy, they can reflect your policy. A solid diversity policy will attract a more diverse workforce, and therefore encourage a wider variety of ERGs. 

Colleagues will find it easier to connect with and support each other. You may find that you attract more diverse candidates when they find out about your DEI efforts, too. 

Extra points if it’s your employees talking about how great your DEI efforts are. This will feel more genuine than if it’s coming from a faceless company.

Networking with colleagues who have things in common with us can make us feel more connected to our jobs, and therefore happier in our role. It can be a place to find guidance and make new friends. There really isn’t a downside to setting up and supporting ERGs, regardless of your business type or size.

If any of these employee resource group examples sound like a good fit for your business, we’d love to help you get started or grow your program. Workrowd offers an array of ERG support options including the Global ERG Network, a vetted consultant network, and of course, our software platform.

Our suite of tools makes it easy to launch, manage, and measure ERGs with templates and guides to support group leaders, user-friendly features to build transparency and connection, and automated data tracking and analytics. Drop by our site or ping us at hello@workrowd.com to learn how we can partner to drive real belonging at your organization.

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7 ways to support mental health for employees

May is Mental Health Awareness Month, but implementing strategies to support mental health for employees is important all year-round. It’s how you create happy, engaged employees who want to work for you. Which is a rare thing in any industry.

Knowing where to start when considering mental health for employees isn’t always easy, though. So here’s a simple list of 7 ways you can support mental health for employees this month, and every month.

Offer mental health first aid

Traditional first aid workers are trained to treat cuts and bruises. They may also be able to hand out mild painkillers. Sort of like a school nurse.

But what if someone’s having a panic attack? Who’s trained to help then?

Mental health first aiders know how to help people with various mental health conditions. 

They’re increasingly common in the workplace as businesses become aware of how important it is to look after mental health for employees as much as physical health.

Wellness days

Wellness days are for employees to use whenever they need a break. 

No questions, no lectures. Just a day off because they feel they need it. 

Maybe they’re feeling depressed and can’t face their colleagues, or they’ve got to go to a dentist appointment. 

It doesn’t matter what they use it for, what matters is that they have the option. Plus, they’re encouraged to use these days. 

Wellness days aren’t there as a cute benefit to lure candidates in. Even managers should use them whenever they need them.

Crucially, nobody ever asks employees why they need them. 

I particularly like when companies allow employees to use these days for dentist, doctor, or hospital appointments. Days off should be used for enjoyment and supporting mental health for employees, not sitting in a waiting room. It’s frustrating to have to use days off, or feel obligated to make up any time back, for trying to look after your own health.

Listen 

Call me a nag if you like. Call me repetitive. But I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: most people are terrible listeners. 

The last thing someone needs when they’re having a bad day for whatever reason is to talk to someone who can’t listen. 

Whether an employee’s problem is work-related or not, if they come to you and feel the need to talk about something, it’s your job to stop and listen to what they have to say. 

If they’re not seeking solutions, don’t offer them. 

Sometimes just talking about something instead of bottling it up is all we need. 

Alternatively, if an employee does want a solution…

See what accommodations you can make

Sometimes, for an employee’s mental health to improve, all it takes is flexible working.  That may mean working from home if they find the office environment too noisy or stressful, or it may mean allowing them to work different hours so that they can work around other commitments and/or on a schedule that works for them.

Other accommodations you could consider involve improving the ergonomics of someone’s desk setup (to reduce eye strain, and therefore headaches, which will lower their stress levels and frustration at their job), or finding them a new location in the office.

Talk openly

Employees follow the example of the leaders around them. So, if you’re closed off about your own mental health, chances are that employees will feel uncomfortable discussing their own, too.

If you talk about mental health struggles you’ve had in the past, it humanizes you and means employees are less likely to see you and other leaders as gods sitting atop Mount Olympus, impossible for mere mortals to ever fully understand.

If your employees see you like that, you have big problems. Not only were the Greek Gods pretty nuts, but they also weren’t that nice, either.

You want employees to see you as accessible and approachable. Talking openly about your life, and the events of your past, can really help with this. 

You don’t need to go into uncomfortable detail, but sharing that you’ve experienced depression and taken a wellness day for this reason shows them that you really do understand, and it really is okay to take a wellness day to support your mental health.

Go for a walking meeting

Walking meetings have serious benefits for our health. As well as being great exercise, they can make us more creative and therefore better at solving problems.

According to Harvard Business Review, employees who take part in walking meetings are 5.25% more creative in their roles and 8.5% more engaged. 

That may not sound like a lot, but when you consider how many employees are leaving their jobs right now, that small percentage can really make a difference.

Have quiet time

Meetings can be incredibly draining whether they’re in-person or online. 

One way to avoid meeting burnout is to set aside a morning, afternoon, or even a whole day, that’s meeting-free. No exceptions.

That includes minimal (or no) Slack or Teams notifications, too. These can still be draining to mental health for employees, particularly if they’re programmed to be reactive and reply right away, or are required to be signed in all the time.

Scheduling quiet time will allow employees to get into a state of flow and really focus on the parts of their role that they enjoy. 

Too often, people request a ‘quick chat’ for something that could’ve been an email. That ‘quick chat’ eats into employees’ energy and productivity.

It’s important to keep quiet time sacred. You shouldn’t change it to different days each week to accommodate meetings. You should change meetings to accommodate this time. 

Quiet time is great for employees with conditions like anxiety, depression, autism, and ADHD. Many people with those conditions find meetings extra draining. Giving them scheduled meeting-free time gives them something to look forward to and/or prepare for, so they know what to focus on during those hours.

Conclusion

Regardless of your business size, there are simple steps you can take to show employees that you really do take their mental health seriously.

You don’t have to make big changes to make a difference. Sometimes smaller steps are all that’s needed.

What really matters is that managers and leaders set an example, prioritizing their own health and being honest about their experiences. 

The more leaders who set this example, the more it will foster a culture of openness within the business. Over time, this will lead to improved mental health for employees, and higher engagement, productivity, and more.

If you’re looking for new ways to support mental health for employees, building real community between colleagues can help. Workrowd makes it easy for your team members to connect, including through activities like mental health employee resource groups, to further support their wellness. If you’d like to learn more about how we can help you support mental health for employees, send a note to hello@workrowd.com.

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Quick tips for supporting a burned out employee

Emerging from the pandemic and adjusting to new ways of living has made many of us reevaluate our lives. In some situations, it may have also caused people to spend more time working and less time relaxing, since working from home can make it hard to switch off. As you can imagine, this is a quick way to wind up with a burned out employee on your team.

Work isn’t the only cause of burnout, of course, but it is one of the main causes. So, in this post, I want to share with you some advice on how to support a burned out employee.

But first, let’s look at what the signs of burnout are…

The signs of burnout

If one of your previously top-performing employees is acting differently lately, and you’re concerned they might be burnt out (or at risk of burning out), here’s what to look for:

  • Feeling exhausted
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Brain fog
  • Disinterest in things that they previously found interesting
  • Grumpiness/irritability
  • Self-doubt
  • Detachment
  • Procrastination 
  • Cynicism
  • Social withdrawal
  • Physical health problems (joint pain, getting sick more often, etc.)

This isn’t an exhaustive list. And it’s important to remember that burnout looks different for everyone. 

But if someone has been doing too much and racing toward the finish line, or they have personal problems that are draining, they could well be burnt out already.

When someone is burning out, or burnt out, one wrong turn could be all it takes to push them over the edge and mean they can’t get back up.

So, if you think there’s a burned out employee on your team—or you know there is—here’s what to do:

Listen

I know I say this in a lot of my posts, but it’s because most people aren’t very good at listening. And most of the people who are terrible listeners don’t realize how bad they are at it.

Thing is, we’re not taught how to listen. Nobody actively tells us when we’re growing up that to listen, we need to stop talking and consider not just what someone says, but how they say it.

It’s also worth remembering that listening isn’t about finding solutions. It’s usually more about giving someone an outlet for how they feel than trying to solve anything. After all, you can’t fix burnout. The only way is through.

Make accommodations

If you have a burned out employee, consider how you can make their life easier.

Can you split a big project up so they’re not the only person dealing with it? How about allowing them to work remotely a few days per week (if they don’t already)? Can you reduce the number of meetings they have to attend?

For some people, having too many things to do can make them feel worse. For others, it’s being around people too much. Even video calls can be challenging sometimes.

So, be willing to make accommodations. Burnout isn’t permanent, but it will last a lot longer if an employee feels like their employer isn’t supporting them. That’s because they’ll be spending most of their time somewhere that doesn’t understand or empathize with what they’re experiencing.

Be sure to ask them what they need, but keep in mind that they may not know. 

Get them to do some research on things that might help, and also do some research yourself so that you can suggest accommodations that may help.

Unless, of course, you want to lose the burned out employee who’s already struggling, or add to their stress levels so that their burnout lasts longer. I’m going to assume you don’t want to be that kind of employer.

Encourage breaks

Not using your vacation days isn’t a badge of honor. It’s a one-way ticket to burnout city.

Work work work work work isn’t a healthy way to live. And the longer someone works 24/7, the closer they’ll get to crashing into a wall.

If you’re working all the time, you have no time to spend with your loved ones, cook a healthy meal, go for a walk, or even just chill in front of the TV. Those things, while small, are important to maintaining our physical and mental health.

That’s why it’s important to encourage employees to take regular breaks throughout the day. This could come in the form of getting up out of their chair to get a hot drink or make a healthy lunch. Or even just go for a quick walk to stretch their legs. 

We all know how unhealthy sitting at a desk all day can be for our minds and bodies, but how many of us actively work to change that, not just through routine workouts, but from regularly getting up out of our chairs?

Don’t draw attention to their situation

What a burned out employee is experiencing isn’t your story to share. They may not even know that they’re burnt out. 

Or they may not feel comfortable talking about it, especially not to their employer. 

I certainly wasn’t ready to talk about my burnout until I came out on the other side of it. And to be honest, I’m still not comfortable talking about it to some people. But I think it’s important to share my story because it shows people that there is a way out. It just takes time. 

Regardless of whether a burned out employee is ready to talk to you about what they’re experiencing, don’t draw attention to it. Either take them aside and ask them how they’re doing, or suggest accommodations you could make to ease their stress levels, such as working from home.

Conclusion

The more you can show your employees that you really do support their physical and mental health, the faster their recovery will be and the happier they’ll feel in their role.

Knowing they have a supportive employer in their corner is great, but support from colleagues can also go a long way towards helping a burned out employee. If you want to build thriving employee communities that encourage team members to bring their whole selves to work, check out Workrowd.

Bonding with peers around shared identities and interests can make the difference between prolonged burnout and a quick recovery. Send a note to hello@workrowd.com to learn more.

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10+ signs of a toxic work environment

A toxic workplace is a recipe for disaster. In addition to making less money because unhappy employees are unproductive employees, it also costs more money to run because of the high churn rate created by a toxic culture. Do you know how to recognize the signs of a toxic work environment?

Some areas, like sales and customer service, will always have a higher churn rate than other areas of your business. 

And some generations don’t stay in the same position for as long as others. 

But it’s your job to create a culture that people want to be a part of. 

Not just because of the perks—which are turning into red flags for many people, for reasons we’ll look into—but because they believe in the business and its mission. 

And you pay people what they’re worth.

In this post, we’re going to explore some key signs of a toxic work environment–some subtle, some more obvious.

Too many perks

“Our employees are happy here. We have a pool table, free fruit, nap pods…”

Stop right there.

If you have any of those things, be very careful. 

Because so-called “perks” are increasingly becoming signs that you’d rather focus on things that encourage employees to stay in the office for longer, rather than paying them what they’re worth—and respecting the fact they have a life outside of work. 

Let’s not forget that embracing and enjoying a life outside of work is good for mental and physical health. Which also helps their working life.

You may think you’re making their lives easier by providing all these amenities. But are you really just asking them to stay in the office for longer? To work more hours?

Pay people what they’re worth instead of worrying about how many shiny objects you have in the office.

If you don’t, there are plenty of recruiters out there who’ll snap up your best employees. And it will be hard to convince new ones to join when they see all the signs of a toxic work environment during their interview.

Bad pay

The market rate for many industries is higher than it used to be right now because some industries are so hot. 

Keep an eye on these trends, because if you advertise a role that pays considerably less than your competition, you’re not going to attract the types of employees that you want. 

Employees are happier when employers pay them what they’re worth and appreciate them. It’s as simple as that.

Lack of diversity

Diverse workplaces are happier and more profitable. Saying that you’re worried a particular individual from an underrepresented community won’t fit in is just an excuse. Of course they won’t fit in—their lived experience is vastly different from everyone else’s!

It’s time to snap your business out of its groupthink before it does any further damage.

Diversity is where the real innovation comes from. That’s how you’ll grow your business faster—and stand out more from your competitors.

Discrimination 

If there are rumors of discrimination within the workplace, listen and investigate

There’s no smoke without fire, as they say. 

If you don’t investigate it, it says to employees—and outsiders, if employees talk about what’s happened—that you don’t care how your employees are treated. 

It also implies that everyone can get away with putting themselves first and not thinking before they speak. It’s a culture like this that leads to a lack of respect between colleagues and discriminatory behavior. Lack of respect is one of the most serious signs of a toxic work environment.

Microaggressions 

Microaggressions may be small, but they can have big consequences

Always listen when someone reports microaggressions.

It can also help to train managers in what these look like so that they can spot the signs. 

Micromanagement 

Micromanagement is never okay. It’s anxiety-inducing for the employee on the receiving end of it, and it’s just a bad management style. 

If a manager feels the need to do this, either they need more management training, or the employee isn’t doing the job they were hired to do. Either way, you have a problem, and it may be one of the signs of a toxic work environment.

Dictation over discussions

No business should be a dictatorship. Organizations should value everyone’s opinions, regardless of how long they’ve been there or what their role is. 

Embracing as many opinions as possible is what will lead to the best problem solving.

Employees don’t last long

A high churn rate is one of the most glaring signs of a toxic work environment, especially if this happens among higher-paid staff. 

Those who are paid more know what they’re worth. They won’t stick around if they’re unhappy because they know they won’t have to wait long to find something else.

Nobody wants to do exit interviews 

Not every business does exit interviews, but if you do, and nobody ever turns up (or fills in the survey), it could be a sign they don’t feel their opinion is worth sharing. 

Some people don’t do them because they’re worried about burning bridges. This is still one of the signs of a toxic work environment because employees shouldn’t be concerned their employer will hold negative opinions they express against them. 

Regardless of what their feedback is, the organization should appreciate it and take it into consideration. It shouldn’t affect any references the company or their colleagues may give them.

Employees barely leave their desks

Employees should have regular screen breaks to give their eyes a rest and move their legs about. This helps to protect their eyesight and prevent muscle loss.

If organizations penalize employees for leaving their desks, this encourages unhealthy habits that can have long-term physical and mental health consequences.

Eating at their desk can also mean they have too much work and don’t have the time to take a break to eat their food and fully enjoy what they have for lunch. This can lead to employees eating more and gaining weight because the distraction of work means they’re less conscious of how much they’re eating.

Employees work unreasonable hours

Unless someone is scheduled for shift work, or works in certain industries, most employees shouldn’t have to work unreasonable or unsociable hours. They deserve time with their family, just like they deserve the money they’re paid for work. 

If employees do work longer hours to, say, finish a big project, make sure this is acknowledged and appreciated, and they’re compensated accordingly. 

Ignoring when someone has gone above and beyond is likely to mean they don’t stick around long enough to help with the next big project.

Conclusion 

No one wants to work somewhere toxic. And I’m going to assume you don’t want to be in charge of a toxic workplace, either. 

If you spot any of these signs of a toxic work environment, it’s important to address them as quickly as possible. The sooner you do, the less likely they are to become a bigger problem.

Addressing these signs quickly also sends a clear message to everyone in your company that you support your employees and won’t tolerate any kind of toxic behavior.

If you’re concerned about toxicity in your workplace, consider checking out a platform like Workrowd. With tools to ensure every employee can find community and voice their opinions, you’re more likely to catch any signs of a toxic work environment early. If you’d like to learn more, email us at hello@workrowd.com and we’ll be happy to set up some time to chat.