Sam Button, Head of Growth, Roar Media
The ‘New Normal’ is now extremely close to being universally accepted, remote working is here to stay with even the oldest institutions accepting that 5 days a week in the office doesn’t lead to optimal employee experience. Technology continues to evolve at a rapid pace and it could be said that a limiting factor in this innovation of working was human, that the pandemic accelerating acceptance of remote working was merely the kick needed for older fashioned company cultures to see the value in flexibility of remote work.
These companies may be similarly challenged when looking at employee wellbeing, mindfulness and the human experience of work. The benefits in childcare for remote working being very plain to see, being an easy example of why companies with no distanced working policies before the pandemic being unaware of human experience & optimal working conditions. Whilst it is great that ‘The New Normal’ is now in place for almost all workers, you have to question why it took such a grave interference to establish this when more open-minded companies have been working like this for years’.
You have to question how much does your company care if they are only providing you the option of freedom and flexibility because their hands are tied vs companies who have been proactively working to improve the lives of their employees with dedicated mindfulness, wellbeing and human experience initiatives.
The pandemic has put the question in people’s minds ‘We are as productive as we were in an officer, why were we not able to do this before? At least for some of the time’ Thus putting much more power back into the hands of employees, looking much further ahead than just employee rights but taking into account how we should be treated as human beings. Putting time, effort and care into a company should be rewarded with benefits above financial, companies should really take heed of organisations keeping their internal innovation projects employee centric with a major element being focused on mindfulness & wellbeing.
How important is mindfulness & wellbeing?
Mental health issues are now the leading cause of sick leave in the UK, accounting for more than half of total sick days. Managers need to be vigilant of burnout from over-loading their staff with responsibilities and be conscious of team members well-being. Maintaining a happy workforce has been seen to increase productivity, efficiency and collaboration. In contrast, an unhappy workforce with stress & inconsistent communication can have an extremely detrimental effect on performance. It is vital to focus on the human aspect of work, ensuring inclusion for all by identifying challenges faced by employees and how these can be overcome to bring together the unity of your organisation.
How is this effected when working remotely?
Several studies have taken place which suggest strong evidence of Covid-19 & lockdown’s effect on mental health with increasing levels of depression and anxiety. There are a number of people who are isolated with an estimated quarter of the UK experiencing loneliness. Change very often leads to emotional reactions of fear, uncertainty and anxiety. As a corporation there is a responsibility of the wellbeing of your workforce.
What can we do to support employees?
Even whilst remote, companies have a duty of care to their employees. With large amounts of travel & incentive/social budgets remaining, employee wellbeing is a great place to look to ensure the happiness and productivity of your staff. This can be done through hardware, furniture, gifts, food etc but the biggest & most effective improvements can also be relatively inexpensive.
If your team does have a social budget & you are interested in ways to engage with team members to increase unity whilst also highlighting to them how important themselves taking care of their own mindfulness and wellbeing is, you could hire a coach for an interactive session online. However, if your budget is minimal there are a number of techniques which can empower employees to take control of their own mindfulness & wellbeing.
30 second breaks – Short breaks from work are something which naturally occur in the office, when we go to make coffee etc. In a remote setting it can be extremely beneficial to be conscious of this practice and it is advised to take a break for 30 seconds, take a deep breath or stand up/move around. You can also do the 20:20:20 trick, after 20 minutes of work you look 20 feet away for 20 seconds.
5-minute trick – This is another technique which is greatly suited to remote work. Do an non-work activity for 5 minutes, get creative, draw something for example to switch the channels in your brain.
Long term wellbeing – It is important to promote exercise, sleep, healthy living, taking breaks and taking part in fun & relaxing activities.
Communication – Reaching out to team members to discuss things outside of work, shows care & gives people the chance to open up and share experiences and issues that might have been faced by others. This empathy can be very powerful in helping employees feel supported and part of an organisation they can be proud of.
Sharing Experiences – This can greatly increase engagement, if you are promoting mindfulness throughout your organisation from the top and for all, you should look to share stories and ideas to encourage each employee to find a routine which works for them.
Results of driving mindfulness & wellbeing
Aikens (et al 2014) tested the impact of an online mindfulness program, specifically created for the workplace, with the aim of decreasing stress while enhancing resiliency & well-being. A cost-benefit analysis was performed based on rates of self-reported burnout concluded that mindfulness programs suggested a 20% increase in worker productivity representing savings of up to £17,000 per employee per annum.
Microsoft are a company who see a clear and significant influence of mindfulness amongst their global workforce with CEO Satya Nadella being an open advocate for many years publicly promoting this with mentions of his 90 second daily mindfulness routine which projects a calm, thoughtful vibe which exposes the benefits of empathy & compassion throughout the working day. At Microsoft’s Ignite event for the past few years, mindfulness has always been a topic to celebrate as a company and enlighten their staff with techniques and ideas, this was highlighted with Satya’s keynote focussing on the topic.
Having a top down approach to mindfulness and wellbeing is key to ensuring all departments are taking it seriously and giving all employees the opportunity to focus on their own mental health at work. This is a wonderful example of how to sow this within the DNA of your company and to create a culture which adopts, supports and promotes practices to increase workplace mindfulness, happiness and satisfaction. Ultimately leading to less burnout, higher levels of engagement, productivity, collaboration, employee experience, talent retention and efficiency.