A 5 minute read on how to increase wellbeing at work and become a role model for it in a virtual world. Whilst the hybrid system of combining working from home with days in the office has been embraced by many organisations, not least because the evidence shows it has had the effect of improving productivity, it’s important for leaders to stay alert to the downsides for employees, not least solitude, overwork, and occasionally burn out too.
It’s not difficult to see how rapidly the work ethic of leaders and the culture of the firms for which they work, trickle down to every employee below them. The pandemic months, far from seeing the predicted decline in productivity as people were forced to work from home, instead saw people working longer and harder than ever. The working day became extended with the loss of the daily commute and the increased accessibility of online court hearings adopting extended operating hours. Consequently, productivity unexpectedly skyrocketed.
Brilliant for businesses you might think – but at what human cost?
Many workers complained that far from working from home during the pandemic, there were times they felt that they were living at work. Instances of burnout went on the rise. According to Forbes, an Indeed survey showed that over half of respondents experienced burnout in 2021, a 9% increase from the previous year, whilst a 67% majority said that burnout had worsened during the pandemic.
Coupled with that, in the UK we are beginning to see the creep of the so-called Great Resignation phenomenon. People are reassessing their priorities and looking to reclaim their work-life balance through career transition, whether that be promotion or seeking a different role in a new organisation, or, more troubling for businesses, wholescale resignation.
As leaders, we can help to stem the flow of talent by becoming a beacon of balance: walking the talk on wellbeing and encouraging employees to put in place healthy boundaries to stay well and happy whilst continuing to work virtually, and from home.
Here are 4 strategies to become a wellbeing role model, by encouraging your team to….
- Be present or focused on whatever task is being undertaking in that moment. By doing so, whether working or outside of work, the constantly distracting push-pull feeling of spinning too many plates can be avoided. This might include checking that virtual working environment supports optimum focus and is conducive to productivity. An easy way to help support a positive working environment and increased productivity is, for example, to actively encourage employees to take plenty of breaks, outdoors where possible.
- Avoid Digital Distraction, another important way to retain laser sharp focus. Of course, there is a tension here. Whilst there is now a significant reliance on technology to stay connected with others whilst working remotely, equally it is important to remain cognisant of the fact that, with laptops open all the time, people can easily get sucked into distracting habits, like keeping email notifications on, or “sitting” in their inbox, reacting to each and every task that lands there and then. Lead by example to encourage a quietening of this digital noise: use automatic out of office notifications during the working day, as opposed to only on holidays, to inform people that emails will only be checked at set times in the day. By doing so, you create a culture of healthy boundaries between yourself and clients to communicate the times you will be responsive but equally to allow yourself time to get on, unimpeded by distraction. Other more definitive boundaries can also be created here, by either activating airplane mode, or by having a separate work and personal phone, helping keep a clear delineation between many hats.
- Create healthy boundaries, over and above digital ones, to support the effective and efficient functioning of the team. The success of individual team members in doing so can often depend on whether they feel they are operating in a psychologically safe environment. This may be where they feel able to fearlessly ask for help and delegate work if needs be, or where they can confidently communicate their needs and set healthy boundaries, on the occasions when work bleeds into personal life.We are seeing it so much more now as our daily commuter journey has morphed instead into an extra hour at our desks either side of the normal, pre-covid working day. As a Leader, you can demonstrate respect for the wellbeing of your team by, for example, not expecting them to dial into calls at hours that in the past might have been considered anti-social.
- Maintain a healthy work life balance. Be the leader who shows employees that you value and promote a healthy mix between work and life. Don’t promote the 24/7, 365 day=“always on” culture. For example, be seen to log off or leave work at a reasonable time. Schedule draft emails being mindful of the potential negative impact on the wellbeing of the recipient of out of hours work. Introduce, and take, wellbeing days. Walk the talk on wellbeing to drive culture change and employee engagement.
Easy in a virtual world to assume that employees are attending to their own wellbeing needs when working remotely. Yet a lot remains unseen. Burn out can then creep up on them AND the firm alike. By making it your business to check in on them, and lead by example, you pave the way for a change in culture which makes it OK to acknowledge difficulties and to overcome the new challenges created by the changed way in which we are now all working.
A healthy, happy ship, with an alignment of values between employer and employee, successfully achieving work life balance together, will inevitably be the ship that safely navigates the choppy, costly waters of talent attrition in today’s remote working world.
What more can you do to weather these particular wellbeing storms?
Nikki Alderson Biography
Nikki Alderson, specialist coach, speaker and author, and former Criminal Barrister with 19 years’ experience:
• supports organisations, law firms and barristers’ Chambers to retain talent; and
• empowers lawyers to achieve career ambitions.
Nikki specialises in 3 areas:
• Emerging Leaders and Leaders in Transition
• Career break returners, and
• Workplace resilience, mental toughness, confidence and wellness.
Learn more about her services here: www.nikkialdersoncoaching.com.
Nikki is the author of Amazon No.1 Bestseller Raising the Bar: empowering female lawyers through coaching, (https://amzn.to/3fodKQX), a TEDx Speaker (https://youtu.be/MYsuUnKt9XA), nominee for the Inspirational Women Awards, Champion of the Year Category and finalist in the 2020 Women in Law Awards, Legal Services Innovator of the Year and 2019 International Coaching Awards, International Coach of the Year Category.