Concerned about how your team is doing? It’s not just the transition to working from home, and the risk of isolation. This is a stressful time generally.
It could be the risk of becoming unwell, or fearing for family and friends. Maybe their partner’s job situation isn’t secure, even if theirs is. Financial worries, housing issues, childcare struggles - you don’t always know what stressors are taking their toll.
These things can’t be ‘left at home’ because that’s where worklife has invaded. So it might be a good idea to make sure your team has the tools they need to push through - for their sake, and your company’s.
Employee wellbeing: give them the tools to thrive
It’s not just about handing out perks, or being the best manager you can be. It’s about equipping a team of vastly different individuals with the tools they need to thrive. Research shows it’s your staff’s mindsets that matter - with their resilience, optimism, and proactivity making the difference regarding how they feel about their job.
That doesn’t mean sitting back and waving all responsibility around wellbeing, though. It’s your job to encourage, teach, and train them to adopt those attitudes - by giving them the space to explore their own mindsets, challenge them with their responses to crisis and suggest ways to develop positive outlooks.
Because it is about thriving, not just surviving. Another study on productivity and engagement in the workplace showed the importance of this - as thriving employees perform better, but also “go above and beyond the call of duty”. The key things to consider are encouraging “vitality” (making their contributions feel worthwhile), “learning” (giving them room for personal progression), “health”, “effective leadership”, and “work-life balance”. And results showed this ‘human’ approach to the workplace led to staff being 72% more satisfied and 32% more committed to their job. Not bad, eh?
So what guidance can you give to your employees to help their resilience and stress levels during this time? Let’s take a look.
Mindfulness: what is it, and is it useful?
You’ve probably heard of mindfulness - maybe you associate it (possibly scathingly) with things like adult colouring books. It’s basically the practice of being present, aware, and less reactive to the situations, scenarios, or surroundings we find ourselves in. Sounds sort of vague, sure. But here’s a basic step-by-step from mindful.org for how to put it in practice:
- Set aside some time. You don’t need a meditation cushion or bench, or any sort of special equipment to access your mindfulness skills—but you do need to set aside some time and space.
- Observe the present moment as it is. The aim of mindfulness is not quieting the mind, or attempting to achieve a state of eternal calm. The goal is simple: we’re aiming to pay attention to the present moment, without judgment. Easier said than done, we know.
- Let your judgments roll by. When we notice judgments arise during our practice, we can make a mental note of them, and let them pass.
- Return to observing the present moment as it is. Our minds often get carried away in thought. That’s why mindfulness is the practice of returning, again and again, to the present moment.
- Be kind to your wandering mind. Don’t judge yourself for whatever thoughts crop up, just practice recognising when your mind has wandered off, and gently bring it back.
It’s thought to increase focus and compassion, and decrease stress and aggression - and there are some studies to support that. It’s a practice you could introduce to team meetings, holding sessions, or just encouraging them to take time out from working to use a mindfulness app. But it may not be for everyone…
Mindlessess: the counter-argument
For some people, mindfulness and/or meditation doesn’t do the trick - with studies reporting increased anxiety by some who practice it. So what’s the alternative? Introducing: mindlessness.
It’s sort of the opposite. Instead of concentrating on deep breaths in and out, for example, you assume your body has that down already. There’s no heavy concentration on your surroundings and situation - instead you follow impulses, intuition, and unstructured mind-wandering.
One book on the subject suggests practices like spending no more than 10 seconds on decision-making, doing away with social niceties in conversation, allowing the mind to drift (in case of random moments of creativity).
In a work setting, that could involve allowing gut feelings to lead team decisions, keeping conversations practical (goodbye “I hope you’re doing well during this strange time” at the start of every email), and allowing time for ‘unfocused’ work. And when it comes down to it, that’s the main thing we’re advocating - giving your team time.
Coffee breaks: they’re more important than you realise
Don’t underestimate the importance of taking breaks. The more fuddy-duddy, old school employers might be thinking “why would anyone need a break, they’re already at home!”. But they’d be sorely mistaken.
Studies on the lunch break show how important it is - with 90% feeling more refreshed and ready to work, and 81% more invested in the company when they take a proper break. And we’re making a case for taking a proper coffee break too.
Not dragging your laptop to the kitchen counter or checking your emails on your phone, while making your coffee. Not getting admin done while you drink your mid-morning brew. But actually stopping for ten minutes, leaving work totally to one side, and taking a moment in the way that suits you - whether it’s mindfulness, mindlessness, or just staring out the window.
Our suggestions for giving your team a break
- Make it team-wide. At 11am every day (for example), declare a 15-minute ceasefire on work emails and slack messages. Everyone stops at the same time for a coffee - or tea, or even hot chocolate - so no-one is disturbed, or feels pressured to chug it down.
- Give them the literal tools. Get in touch, and we can sort out your team members with a free V60 brewing kit and discounted coffee if you use Pact Coffee normally. Or why not treat them all to a one-off bag of the fresh stuff.
- Give them the mental tools. Encourage them to use these breaks - whether they’re once, twice, or three times a day - to look after themselves. Whatever that looks like!