Team leaders must foster employee relationships, especially now, with employees becoming more physically, mentally, and emotionally distant. Leaders can keep their well-oiled, people-powered machines working smoothly through a simple concept called Spot Lighting. During a weekly team meeting, one person on the team begins the session by taking 5 minutes to talk about themselves (i.e., Spot Lighting). Through pictures, commentary, and show and tell, the person of the week shares their interests from outside of work. It could be a story about the time they hiked through the Mohave Desert or when they spent a day in silence or a compilation of moments about their family. Whatever the narrative, it makes us more aware that we share our workdays with some multi-faceted, incredible humans. Mondays are marvelous for this because it is a fun way to kick off the week, but any day will do. Once you get through the whole team, start again. Keep those passion discussions flowing; you never know the ideas that will stem from them. This tip originally appeared in the Lowdown, a weekly EX Newsletter provided by Joyus. If you would like tips like this delivered directly to your email box weekly please sign-up.
Mitigate the "Always-On" Culture
We’ve all received an email from our boss at 9pm on a Friday and feel the need to get back into work mode even though we are two glasses of wine deep into our evening. While these disruptions may have been rare during pre-COVID19 times, they have become a staple in our work lives during recent months. Now that remote work has become the standard; many employees find their workdays are becoming exceedingly protracted. Some relate their additional hours to a better use of the time that otherwise would have been consumed by long commutes. Others do not realize how much time has passed while plugging away from their home office. However, many folks are scrambling to find enough time to get their work done while balancing homeschooling, elder care, or a shared space with a working spouse or roommate, so they fit their work in when they can, regardless of the time on the clock. This atypical way of working means that some teams are churning 24/7, which can lead to burnout of people across the organization. Fortunately, a few simple actions can help curve the always-on cycle, making everyone a little happier and less stressed. Core Hours With new demands pulling employees in every direction, we can’t expect people to be available during the same 8-10 hour window that they were in pre-COVID19 times. However, core hours let us have the entire team available at set times throughout the day. In essence, core hours are 2-4 hours that every employee on the team must be online or accessible. Perhaps you do one chunk of core time from 9am-12pm, or maybe you have two separate core times like 10am-12pm and again from 2pm-4pm. Outside of the core hours, employees are free to get the rest of their work done at times that suit them best. Each team should be able to customize their core hours and make them known to the rest of the company. This approach helps with team collaboration, and it allows other teams to know the best time to reach individuals from other groups. ZZ Mail Remember that 9 pm email from your boss? Or maybe your get messages from an enthusiastic salesperson who forgets about delay sending those 2am emails asking for your help with client presentations? Zz mail will save you from those intrusive, off-hour pings. Zz mail serves as a delayed receive for emails coming in at all hours of the day and night by setting perimeters on when email can enter your inbox. Typically, zz mail is active during set hours, for example, between 8 pm and 7 am. This approach will help eliminate the angst you feel when those emails come in during your downtime because you won’t see them until you start your workday. Alarms Many of us are not leaving home as much these days, which sometimes leads to days running into the night without us realizing the amount of time that has passed. On the surface, it may seem fantastic that everyone is putting in more time. However, this overextension can lead to burnout and decreased productivity; none of us want that. Encourage the use of alarms on phones or computers to alert folks of quitting time so they can relish in well-deserved rest. Whether you implement some of these approaches or all of them, teams must have the final say in what works best for their unique situations. Allowing individuals and their workgroups the autonomy to set healthy boundaries will ultimately lead to a more satisfied and engaged workforce. If you would like to receive weekly tips like this direct to your inbox, please subscribe to The Lowdown.
3 Fun Ways to Keep Employees Engaged
Despite businesses starting to ramp up again, large corporate campuses and skyline defining architecture will likely remain eerily quiet for the foreseeable future. These vacancies are due to a new phenomenon where professional organizations seem to be competing for last place, at least when it concerns returning to the office. Companies like Facebook, Microsoft, Amazon, Google, Zillow, and many others are delaying returning to the office until at least October with the bulk of them eyeing a quasi-return as late as Q1 2021. While other companies like Nationwide and Cisco are scrapping office settings in favor of remote work for large swaths of their employees. Employers are not alone. Their employees are on board with dropping their daily commutes in favor of waist up professional appearances. According to a LinkedIn study, 75% of people in digital fields endorse the idea that remote work and effective operations are synonymous. It also indicates that as many as 67% of people in traditional white-collar fields share that same sentiment. Considering that work from home protocols are here to stay for the long haul, it is essential to keep our employees and teams engaged in fun ways that allow them to bond, work better together, and ideally keep them from jumping ship. 1. Sharing Skills, character, and people’s social selves make our team members so much more interesting than we can ever imagine. Now we have a unique opportunity to learn more about each other. How-To Sessions Our workforces are often overflowing with super talented people that have a wide range of skills that they love to show off, and others would like to learn. Now is a great time to bring people together (virtually) and let their skills shine. Are you tired of killing all of your plants? Maybe a resident green thumb can guide folks on how to care for their ailing greenery properly. From employee-led guitar lessons, photography how-tos, and sushi rolling workshops, to yoga sessions, art classes, cocktail making, and ski tuning demonstrations, there are a wide variety of fun skills that employees can share and learn from one another. There are work-related options too. Tapping employees to help each other hone skills like public speaking, writing, or excel skills are great ways to develop both the teachers and the students. WFH Office Show & Tell Show and Tell is a fun way for everyone to understand each other a little better. Not only do we get to see where people live, but we can also better understand some of the challenges our peers encounter that they typically wouldn’t experience in an office setting. For those who dare, don’t be afraid to take it beyond the “office.” Show off your living area, open the refrigerator, and introduce those remarkable individuals you cohabitate with like you are on MTV Cribs. Recipes Most people are firing up their ovens and grills a little more than they used to, which means many folks are looking to update their recipe stash (or remedies on how to disguise those scorched eyebrows). Create a forum where people can share their delicious finds and creations. It’s always fun to take it a step further by showing off your inner Martha Stewart and Snoop Dogg by doing quick video tutorials on how to make your favorite dish and discuss different variations and flavors. Clubs Clubs help employees bond with people across the organization that have similar interests. They can also help with accountability. Reading a few books a month may be difficult for some, but being a part of an employee-led company book club could inspire them to reach that goal. The same is true with activities like running. Folks are likely to rack up more miles if they are part of a group of enthusiastic runners. 2. Competition Most people love a good, friendly competition. It is a great way to break down barriers and have a few laughs along the way. To make it more interesting, add some stakes where the winner can get things like gift cards, charitable donations in their name, a day off, or simply the oh-so coveted bragging rights. Virtual Board Games Board games are great pastimes that are making a big comeback. With video conferencing services, playing these games across cities and even time zones is easier than cuffing an ace of spades. A few of the more popular games making virtual debuts are Bingo, Heads Up, Trivia, Pictionary, Charades, and a big favorite among many – Codenames. This article from Slate lays out tips on how to play board games remotely. Mask Design Competition Masks are here to stay, at least for a while, so we have an opportunity to have some fun with them. Think a Holiday Stocking Design contest, but with masks. A mask design competition will allow employees to show off their creative side while involving their families too. To make sure everyone can partake in the creative fun, have an adult competition and a competition for kids broken down by age group. Photo Contest If a picture is worth a thousand words, then what better way is there to learn about each other? A weekly photo contest where employees vote on their favorite photo is a great way to bring people closer together even when they are far apart. Categories like photos of your daily walk, pre-Covid19 travel shots, WFH office setups, or pictures of your “Coworkers” (pets, kids, roommates, spouses, plants, or anything else you want to show off) are all fun ways to show off your style. If you don’t have a platform that allows for easy submittals and votes, you can leverage Instagram to collect these photos by developing creative hashtags unique to your organization. 3. Wellness Mental, physical, and emotional wellness are a struggle for many folks, especially right now. We have a golden opportunity to engage with each other to make taking care of ourselves more fun and rewarding. Give 10 Challenge Get your team’s hearts pumping by tagging a coworker at random to do 10 push-ups, burpees, squats, or sit-ups. To keep it going, that coworker can tag someone else and so on. It’s like an adult version of duck-duck-goose. Team Challenges Create team challenges where folks can sign up and compete with other teams on miles or steps. Ideally, competitions are completed on a weekly or bi-weekly basis, so no team(s) fall too far behind and give up. Charity Challenges Get those feel-good vibes flowing by offering charitable donations for your employees’ sweat. For example, Zappos is donating a meal to Feeding America for each person who completes a virtual 5k. Yoga and Meditation Classes Always a great way to help the body and mind, yoga and meditation classes can be taught separately or together. Many online portals are available for a fee, or you may have a few yogis on staff that may be willing to teach the classes virtually. Since no one knows what the future holds, it is imperative that we keep employees engaged in ways that are not strictly about work. Building rapport with our colleagues helps create cohesive teams that retain people and keep them productive even when the competition down the street comes knocking. And let’s face it, we all need to have a little more fun! Before you incorporate any of these initiatives, there are a few key points to keep in mind. Make it relaxed and fun by keeping these events voluntary. People are already feeling stressed without the additional pressure of being required to attend an event Get people involved by asking for activity ideas that they would be interested in Reflect on the successful activities you used to do in the workplace and take them virtual Variety is the spice of life so make sure there are plenty of options so people can choose what activities best suit them If an employee is routinely unengaged in these activities, invite them to be your guest to an event that you think they will like to help warm them up to the idea of being involved For more ideas or help improving your company culture and employee experiences, Contact Us for a free 30-minute consultation.
6 Ways to Help Your Company Thrive
COVID-19 has thrown the US and the world for an unprecedented, debilitating loop. Markets are tumbling. Industries are hobbled. People are panicking. While many reports are focused on doom and gloom, and no one knows how long this new normal will last, the good news is that most Americans still have their jobs. However, these uncertain times are testing our company cultures like never before. Based on what we are seeing, very few of the "great company culture," organizations are holding up very well when times are tough. Implementing strict new policies, managers shedding their stress on their employees, individuals foregoing leadership responsibilities, and the lack of transparency from the top about the organization's health are some examples of typical reactions that we are witnessing. It may come as no surprise that these actions are not conducive to positive work environments. In fact, these actions are causing an immense amount of damage. As Mark Cuban recently stated, companies' responses to COVID-19 are going to define their brands for decades. Let that sink in "Decades." To add salt to the wound, due to the changing dynamics of work, an onslaught of articles about how to remain optimally productive during a pandemic are coming out en masse. Many of these articles are copy and paste of elementary, and often archaic, productivity measures from pre-COVID19. These articles are not only redundant, but the rhetoric is exhausting. We know the proper execution of communication and mapping our days are essential, pandemic, or not. As exhausting as this outpouring of redundant diatribe may be, the incessant tether to the past makes sense because, in times of crisis, it is human nature to try to control everything. Our innate reaction to uncertainty is to upend it by painstakingly implementing and reinforcing protocols aimed at creating some semblance of normal, even when "normal" doesn't work in the current environment. We have to be conscious of the fact, despite our instinctive desires, that maintaining an unrelenting death grip on the notion of how things should be will often cause more harm than good, for ourselves and everyone around us. So, here is your reminder that it is ok to take a step back and breathe. Thankfully, there are some ways to handle our new norms with understanding and empathy. We can start by intently focusing on our organizational cultures and employee experiences. We can be intentional with our coworkers, managers, and employees. Instead of focusing on hysteria, we can choose to live our values. Here are six areas of focus that individuals, teams, and leaders should practice to improve their work lives during these trying times. With regular practice, our cultures and experiences will improve, and our workplaces may end up being even better than they ever were before. 1. Show Vulnerability As Brené Brown so eloquently put it, "People who wade into discomfort and vulnerability and tell the truth about their stories are the real badasses." It's true. This new way of working and life, in general, is unique for all of us. We need to let our employees and peers know that it is highly encouraged and ok to ask for help. Vulnerability goes beyond just asking questions, in any case. If your kid mortifies you by running naked behind you during a teleconference, or maybe you had a tough time getting out of bed this morning, or maybe stay at home orders are pushing you to learn how to cook without setting off the smoke detectors - share those stories too. That raw, real-life stuff makes you more relatable, helps build connections, and makes us feel less alone. You never know the relationships you will develop, and the good-faith belly laughs you may cause. More than anything right now, we need to be human. 2. Promote Flexibility We need to understand that people all around the world are grieving. According to David Kessler, the world's foremost expert on grief, we are experiencing anxiety and grief in different phases. People are grieving over the loss of their daily lives, their normal, and they need the flexibility to manage that grief in whatever way they can. As leaders, our innate reaction may be to beat the hypothetical drum and make more rules. Instead, we should pause and support people in processing their grief by allowing them to set necessary work boundaries. These boundaries will enable people to rebound more healthily and more quickly. Not only are we grieving, but we are also trying to manage a new way of living that none of us have experienced before. Because of this, it is crucial to allow people to be flexible with their days. Many people need to work around homeschooling, their partner's or roommate's work calls, or any other things that we usually don't have to deal with during our workdays. Be sure to ask if someone has the time to dive into a project or conversation before assuming they can give you their undivided attention. Also, try to be respectful of your coworkers offline hours. Delay send those 1am emails, don't send Slack messages when someone is unavailable, and don't send text messages about issues that don't need immediate attention. Do you want to help employees be more productive with their work? Allow employees the flexibility to choose what they want to be working on right now and funnel them more of that work. Some folks may want to tackle the world with this newfound time; others may need more straightforward tasks to get them through. Listening to feedback and encouraging people to focus on what motives them will help elevate the entire team. 3. Create Space for Well-Being Due to our new norms, we are experiencing higher levels of stress and anxiety. To help manage this burden, reassuring employees that it is acceptable to take the downtime needed to focus on their mental and physical wellbeing is critical. Encouraging mid-day breaks for a virtual workout class or meditation, or challenging folks to a step challenge are good ways to help relieve the stress and anxiety. Many employers have robust wellness programs that employees can tap into to help navigate their wellness journey. Communicate those offerings frequently and provide links to make it easy for people to access their wellness benefits. For those that want even more, there are a lot of options available. Peloton Digital is currently offering 90 days free on its app, which has a large assortment of weight training, cardio workouts, yoga, and meditation classes, all from the comfort of your own home. Headspace is offering two weeks free for mindfulness training to help with sleeping, stress, and anxiety. Also, many local gyms and studios are offering online classes for free. Encourage employees to check out new avenues to take care of themselves and their loved ones. 4. Maintain Social Connections Humans are social creatures, and right now, many people are trying to navigate a sense of loneliness and isolation that they have never experienced before. Leaders are in a unique position to help curb that sense of loneliness by fostering community in teams and boosting social interactions. Creating mentorship programs, implementing cross-functional training, hosting team-building meetings, hosting friendly competitions, or encouraging virtual happy hours are ways to help people feel connected and inspired. 5. Live Your Company Values Helping employees find the personal meaning behind their work and connect their work to your company values is critical to maintaining motivation (and always has been). As leaders, make sure employees know those values by communicating them frequently and, most importantly, leading by example. It is also a good idea to have employees frame their roles to how they directly contribute to the company's goals. This exercise will help employees identify their purpose, connect with their teams, and uncover their unique skills and strengths that make them great at their jobs. As an organization, it is imperative to keep your finger on the company's pulse and be proactive about any leadership and employee discomforts. A quick employee survey is an easy way to gain insight into the organization's current state. If you would like to partake in a complementary survey to gauge how your employees are doing, send us a message here. 6. Focus on the Future This one may be the hardest of all right now. Especially since many of us are dealing with putting out fires here and now, plus there are a lot of unanswered questions about how and when we will return to normal. However, this is a prime opportunity to focus on the future and position your company and people for success. For many of us, the future of work has been thrown at us in a whirlwind. Now is the time to understand how employees and customers are dealing with this new tech-centric way of working. Focus on how you can make the business better by determining potential improvements for employee and customer experiences. Ask, how can employee lives be improved? How can you step up to meet client needs? What training and development do employees need to fulfill succession planning requirements, and can you take advantage of this time to offer that training now? The choice to be proactive or reactionary during this time will impact your business and your ability to attract and retain talent for years to come. _ These six focus areas are more critical now than they have ever been. We have a unique opportunity to improve our cultures and employee experiences while showing employees that even though work still needs to be done, we care about them as people. We can show them that we want them to succeed, and we are willing to dedicate the time and resources for their betterment and wellbeing, which will ultimately pay dividends to us, the employer. Hopefully, when this is all over, we can carry this new compassionate work-life forward to make work better for everyone. Let's be kind. Let's be understanding. Let's make the future of work a better place because the future is here. As a reminder, you can get a complimentary employee survey by sending us a note here. Sign up for our Monthly Culture & Employee Experience Newsletter here.
A Lesson in Layoffs, What Not to Do
As someone who spends her days helping companies and their people thrive, a frequent complaint I hear from executives at prospective client organizations goes something like this, "Employees have no loyalty anymore. We bend over backward, and they won't stay." While that sentiment may be accurate, especially without insights from purposeful employee experience work, there are several reasons why employees don't stick around as they have in the past. One of the biggest reasons for persistent churn is that employers have shown little loyalty to employees over the years, and people have noticed. Here is a prime example. Recently a friend of mine was invited to an all-hands virtual meeting where he was told by the CEO of his company that he and a couple hundred of his peers, almost the entire company aside from senior leadership, no longer had jobs, effective immediately. There would be no severance, no placement services, no insurance continuation despite the COVID-19 pandemic, nothing. His company was not a business whose operations halted due to COVID-19. It was not a startup. It was a high revenue, professional organization. They were still working, still selling, and until very recently, still hiring. In fact, their solutions are in-demand as companies navigate the transition from physical office spaces to work from home settings. The company let their employees down, and they no longer had the staff to honor client support contracts. As days have turned into weeks, the real kicker is that my friend and many of his coworkers still haven't heard from their bosses. Those bosses that they have worked with for years are part of a small skeleton crew keeping operations going. Very few from the senior leadership team have reached out to their old employees to offer references, apologize for how things went down, or to say anything at all. This cruel regard is how the "leaders" at his company chose and continue to choose to treat their employees, radio silence. Given the current situation, sometimes tough decisions have to be made. We may have to layoff or furlough employees. We may have to squeeze operations down to a virtual standstill. However, how we choose to treat our people during times like these create a reputation that will follow us for years to come. That reputation, good or bad, is news that spreads like wildfire and will impact our ability to attract and retain talent well into the future. Although the virus is wreaking havoc on our lives, we can still uphold our organizations' values, and we can always be kind. Kindness is what will get us through. If you are facing a situation where layoffs or furloughs are in order and want to maintain cultural integrity, we are offering free 30 minute consultations to help you navigate this challenge. Grab your time slot here. Sign up for our Monthly Culture & Employee Experience Newsletter here.