Earlier this year, we talked about the importance of role-modelling healthy behaviours in facilitating a culture of wellbeing. At both a team and an organisational level, the influence of culture on employee wellbeing should not be underestimated – yet is often overlooked. Placing the onus solely on individuals to take care of their own wellbeing will only go so far; research has found that employees also need to be operating in a culture of wellbeing to support them and make their efforts sustainable. But how can such a culture be created and sustained when some or all employees work remotely?
Communication is Key
A great deal boils down to communication: both how and when employees communicate with each other, and the sorts of conversations that are encouraged.
Instant messaging – Remote workers can’t just lean across a desk and ask a question to their manager, or run an idea by a colleague in a coffee break. Instant messaging can be a real help in breaking down these sorts of communication barriers. For those quick questions or requests that don’t seem to warrant a phone conversation, the ability to fire over a quick message can be the ideal solution.
Non-work chat – Without the opportunity to spend time together in a lunch break or after work, relationships between colleagues can become solely focused on work tasks and lose any personal touch. Remembering to take a minute at the end of a call to ask a colleague about their weekend plans, for example, can make all the difference to how someone feels.
Make expectations clear – Especially if you have employees with different working patterns within your organisation or team, set clear expectations for when employees are and are not expected to respond to emails. Being isolated from each other can lead to individuals feeling great pressure to respond and appear to be working hard enough, but something as simple as setting (and sticking to) guidelines can really help to alleviate this.
Regular team check-ins – In the absence of everyday face to face contact, it can help to schedule more regular catch-ups than you might have in a typical office environment. Team video calls can be a great way to keep spirits up and foster relationships between employees who may be many miles apart. Try to always bring some positivity to these calls by asking each team member to talk about what is going well for them at work, rather than focusing only on problems.
Constructive and regular feedback – Remember to recognise great work and celebrate employees’ accomplishments, as well as providing supportive feedback when things are not going so well.
Bring people together – Every now and then, arrange a whole team get-together where employees can meet and get to know not just their own close colleagues but those from across the organisation. These don’t need to be frequent to be effective; even just a couple of times a year can make all the difference.
Culture Must be Led by Senior Management
To be successfully embedded and sustained, the above suggestions still need to stem from and be role-modelled by the senior leadership of an organisation. Ensuring that employees feel connected to leaders and up to date about the organisation is also crucial in order for them to maintain a sense of purpose. Establishing a shared purpose within teams will help to maintain this, as well as communicating the business focus or strategy through regular company updates.
Senior management also need to take the lead on things like allowing employees sufficient autonomy and trust, and fostering a no-blame culture that provides psychological safety, therefore enabling individuals to have the confidence to step forward and put themselves ‘out there’. These are just some of the areas that can be diluted when employees work remotely, with less face to face contact or centralisation of communication, systems and processes.
These have just been a handful of ways to foster a culture that will support employees’ wellbeing. None of them are particularly complex or challenging, yet often very little thought is given to them. It can take time to embed changes such as these, especially if they require new technology, but soon enough the benefits will become clear in the form of happier, more resilient and productive employees.
To further support your employees, find out about our wellbeing and resilience workshops and resources here.