The past 18 months have been life changing in so many ways. Spotlighting what we value, what we need and how we work. The impact on work life has been tremendous and new models for where we work and how we connect with work colleagues has been transformational.
Positive mindsets and productivity
Exciting news comes in the form of a global survey from large corporations signposting a new appreciation for workplace wellness. 68% of HR leaders place tsupport for team wellbeing as a high priority. The evidence for supporting the mental health of employees cannot be ignored. Countless reports and insights match a simple formula between positive mindsets and productivity.
Remote working & connectivity
For people who work remotely on a freelance or employed basis, the need to maintain connectivity and a sense of belonging is paramount. This necessity speaks to me personally! At the Prospect Society, we are a collective of remote working freelancers using the latest video tools and collaboration systems to deliver our work. Over the course of the pandemic, we turned to technology to help maintain communication and connectivity. But the innovation behind video conferencing and business collaborations tools had not been developed to support all employee needs. The combination of lockdowns, extended periods of isolation and a significant amount of communication through software has adversely affected the mental wellbeing of some employees. According to Alight nearly half of all US employees say the pandemic had a negative effect on their mental health.
Here I share some of the trends and tips I recently pulled together for wellness in the workplace services provider Talkout:
A fundamental need is a sense belonging
Perhaps it starts with addressing fundamental and universal human needs first. In Abraham Maslow's hierarchy of needs, ‘belonging is a core influencer that motivates human behaviour.
Countless studies have shown that a sense of belonging is crucial to our life satisfaction, happiness, mental and physical health and even longevity. It gives us a sense of purpose and meaning. Research has shown that a loss of belonging has been associated with stress, illness and depression.
In his book, the Happiness Hypothesis, Jonathan Haidt calls this ”vital engagement.” It is about a matrix of relationships and a sense of community in which you feel connected with activity and the group itself.
However in a recent Forbes article, Jeanine Stewart, senior consultant with the Neuroleadership makes an important distinction about belonging. “Being surrounded by other human beings doesn’t guarantee a sense of belonging. Belonging actually has to do with identification as a member of a group and the higher quality interactions which come from that. It’s the interactions over time which are supportive of us as full, authentic human beings.” All of these are important to fulfillment and to the success of the organisation as a whole.
Curating a sense of employee belonging takes a rich combination of ingredients and in order to create a culture that nurtures belonging, organisations must first listen.
An open mindset
There may be varied perspectives on what good culture means to different individuals in the organisation and it’s important for leaders to ask key questions that will take those different views into account. Research shows that not everyone is focused on the importance of where to work right now - hybrid or otherwise. There is increasing global evidence that the social impact and values of a business rate highly amongst all employee ages. In fact 60% of US and Australian millennials said they would leave a job over a clash on values - despite worries about potential unemployment. This highlights just how important it is to understand how well your people are aligned with your values and that as an organisation you deliver on them. Get this wrong and you’ll see higher staff turnover and a downturn in customer experience as your employees don’t believe in your vision and values and subsequently won’t deliver that exceptional experience needed to excel in a market irrespective of industry.
Purpose and values
According to Tracy Bower, author of ‘Happiness At Work’, “leaders need to be intentional about articulating purpose, discussing the big picture of the overall goals and ensuring people feel their work is uniquely connected and necessary to the success of the organisation”.
Clear business values and clarity on individual goals help enhance a sense of connectivity and purpose. This comes through a shared vision and understanding of business purpose, brand values and goals. With hybrid working, this can be especially critical. When people are in the office, they can experience a sense of common purpose as they naturally interact with those around from brainstorming sessions to hitting the next big goal, receiving positive feedback on a recent piece if work or simply having a chat about what’s new with the company or what they did at the weekend. When people are removed from this environment this activity ceases or dies down to a low level of gifs on slack and brief small talk on a Zoom call. However this interaction is vital to building connection and belonging at organisation.
Trust, Transparency & Recognition
Embracing remote working requires mutual trust and transparency. And this works both ways. Team leaders must be clear about goals and celebrate successes to foster a sense of pride and team spirit. On-going rewards and recognition are fundamental to good performance and happiness in the workplace. According to this article, 63% of employees who are recognised are less likely to seek a new job.
Building in operational systems that help peers acknowledge each other’s achievement and managers recognise and reward teams is a great way to ensure recognition is a regular occurence. A culture of recognition supports a sense of belonging and should form a part of all healthy business values.
Support and Accessibility
Non desk based operations have been facing the challenge of improving connection, communication and support for many years. Logistics, hospitality, health care, retail are just a few sectors that have huge frontline workforces that are disconnected from head office teams and company culture.
At Talkout, the business is creating software solutions designed to build healthier, more connected workplaces. Their platform helps to support employee wellbeing, development and create a culture of connection and belonging. While technology can never replace human to human connectivity it can help to bring people together, create connection and help organisations adapt as operations become increasingly distributed and their people more isolated.
During the pandemic we saw organisations across the globe turn to technology to keep business moving. Slack, Zoom, Teams and a myriad of other solutions all saw prolific growth. As these traditional businesses move to hybrid working models, they will be turning towards technology again to help them with communication, connection and support of their people. Having a solution in place to support and foster connection and communication is more important than ever as we move towards a hybrid work model because research shows that people who are working from home are working even longer hours and if we face a global health crisis again in the future organisations that have invested in culture technology will reap the benefits in employee wellbeing and performance.
Culture is critical to success
Taking everything into account, a sense of belonging shines through as the most basic and important human need in the workplace. A good business culture is critically important to company success and classic research by Kotter demonstrates when cultures are more effective, organisations see payoffs in revenue growth, retention and net income. Additional research by Denison demonstrates positive correlations with return on investment and return on sales.