Combating Presenteeism in the Workplace

Most employers have a good idea of the negative impact that employee burnout has on their culture, bottom line, engagement, and turnover rates. Needless to say, it’s big. Many things can lead to employee burnout, but most often left out of the conversation is the problem of presenteeism 

Presenteeism is the act of coming into work when you are not entirely up for it, either because of illness or mental health, and working at a reduced capacity. This leads to increased burnout because it stresses the body and mind when it should be resting, and is instead straining energy resources and stamina. 

Successfully approaching the problem requires a multi-pronged approach.  

Set the tone 

While employees may read in your handbook that their wellness matters, it may not be evident within your culture. If you have managers and leaders within your company that pedestalizes employees who work overtime or come in when they are sick, you might as well be telling others that is the expectation of all employees.   

Make sure you not only encourage people to stay home when they are sick, but also make a concerted effort to identify when people are at work when they shouldn’t be. And when that inevitably happens: Send. Them. Home. 

Sick days aren’t enough 

While sick days are essential, they don’t encompass all the other valid reasons for not coming in to work. Taking a day off for mental health reasons is just as valid as doing so because of physical illness. In today’s culture, younger generations are prioritizing mental health and wellness and want to see their company do the same.  

Make an effort to destigmatize the topic of mental health in your workplace and encourage people to go home when they need the day off. Doing so will help you build strong relationships with your employees based on trust, loyalty, and care. When employees feel taken care of and are free to take care of their personal needs, they will become deeply invested and engaged with your company. The loss of one day of work may be all the difference someone needs to help them return with more energy, drive, and dedication.  

Learn how to ask 

Despite telling your employees it’s ok for them to stay home for personal reasons or due to illness, many people will push themselves to go into work regardless of their condition. It may take time for these employees to unlearn unhealthy working habits, and as leaders, it’s your job to help them do so.  

Take care to notice when someone seems burned out, on edge, or sick. Take the initiative to ask how they are doing. In some cases, you may need to ask twice to get a genuine answer as the robotic response of, “I’m good!” because it’s so ingrained in our unconscious reactions.  

When someone does tell you they’ve been having a hard time, or even just having a hard day, ask them to take the rest of the day off. Or suggest they take the following day off. This small act will help those who may not have even considered taking time off to take a step back and re-evaluate. These actions show employees that not only are you paying attention to their wellbeing but that you are prioritizing it.  

Lead by example 

If staying home from work makes you cringe, then this is for you. Yes, it is true that as leaders, you have the responsibility to show up consistently for your employees. But you ALSO have the responsibility to lead by example, to take care of your own wellbeing, and to show your employees that taking care of themselves isn’t just encouraged, it’s expected.  

Being open and honest about why you are taking the day off may make a more significant impact than you’d expect. For instance, if you were to tell your staff you’re taking the day off for mental health, you are doing two powerful things: 1) you’re making a statement that mental health should be prioritized, and 2) you’re showing your employees that it’s ok to acknowledge mental health in the workplace. Being known as a leader who expects their employees to act like humans and not robots is a gift both to your employees and your company.  

What goes around, comes around  

The lovely thing about becoming a company that does this is the reciprocal nature of the relationships you’re building within your company. As people are treated well and encouraged to take care of themselves, they will, in turn, treat your company well and value their roles within it. Taking this approach with your employees may have a lasting effect on their lives and your business. 

 If someone comes into your company from a culture that pushed them beyond what was healthy, their potential for growth is massive. They might not even be aware they have been burned out, but when you provide them with the opportunity they need to care for themselves, you may find that their store of energy and dedication grows and deepens beyond what you both imagined.    

Think of it like a wilted tree. The more nutrients and water you give it, the larger and more resilient it will become, bearing fruit that will feed the land around it. Nurture your employees like you would that tree, and watch as they amplify their power within your business and become the force that pushes your organization forward and up. 

 

Content provided by Q4iNetwork and partners

Photo by Volodymyr Melnyk

 

Don’t Lose Momentum (No, We’re Not Talking About Growth)

We’ve all been experiencing the effects of the pandemic for a few months. And chances are, you’ve begun to think about whatever the “new normal” is that people are talking about.

What is going to change permanently?
What will revert to how it was before the pandemic?
How will our jobs/company function for the foreseeable future?

You’ve got your mind on the future along with everyone else. You’ve seen all the posts about returning to work, what companies can expect when they reopen, etc.

In the first few weeks of the stay-at-home orders, it was challenging to have a conversation that didn’t revolve around the pandemic. Like at all. Leaders spent a lot of time reassuring their teams that everything would be ok, that they didn’t expect them to be perfect, that it was ok to feel anxious or scared.

And this was the right thing to do. During any time of transition (pandemic or not), employees need to be reassured that they’re allowed to take time to adjust, to make mistakes, and to struggle.

It’s a critical part of ensuring the psychological health of your employees, boosting a positive company culture, and developing trust-based relationships within your company structure. And generally, after a certain time, you can expect the transition period will come to an end, and you can begin looking for a higher level of consistency from your employees.

But this isn’t a normal transition. It isn’t a merger; it isn’t a change in leadership or processes; it doesn’t have that lovely, reliable beginning, middle, and end that comes with most other transitions.

Sure, it had a beginning, but we have no way of knowing exactly when this will all be over. We’ve been told to expect multiple waves of shut-downs and stay at home periods that could reach into the next two years. And no matter who you are, whether or not your job has been affected, you will experience the effects of the pandemic in your life.

Emotional burnout

So your company leaders did all the check-ins and wellness reviews they could when the pandemic started. But often those precious one-on-one check-ins that everyone is raging about are emotionally draining.

For leaders who made significant attempts to increase communication with their teams and to offer support to employees one-on-one, it wouldn’t be surprising if they have begun to feel drained.

Those check-ins demand emotional presence; they require tact and patience and genuine connection. All of which takes energy. Not to mention the extra effort it requires to do this stuff remotely. Plus, if you’re a leader, who’s checking in on you? No one? Your cat?

If you’re not emotionally drained by now, just wanting to focus on the work at hand, you’re probably part of a select few. The novelty of working from home is no longer filling the gap of social connection and society being open. For the majority of people, the consensus sounds something like, “We’re sick of talking about COVID, and we just want things to go back to normal.”

Nurturing that precious momentum

When the pandemic first struck and everyone was experiencing their first few weeks at home, the video calls, virtual happy hours, and one-on-one check-ins were running rampant. But now that we’re all tired and burned out, those key actions are becoming more and more difficult to maintain.

And unfortunately, there is no one solution to make it easier. But letting them slide because you’d rather focus on your work and ignore the pandemic isn’t a good solution. Those who are prone to isolation, anxiety, and distraction are now at even higher risk of losing their path.

It’s critical we continue to consistently check in with each other. If you’re a leader who’s feeling burned out on check-ins, consider setting up a buddy system and encourage team members to check in on one another. Spread the responsibility around to your whole team.

Remember, this is a long haul. To maintain the health of our communities, we need to buckle down on our wellness plans and cement them into our weekly schedules. This is not the time to let them slide.

If anything, the “new normal” will be more people and wellness-focused. So if you want to think about the future, go ahead. Just don’t forget to include the vital acts of community support and wellness that we all need so badly today.

 

Content provided by Q4iNetwork and partners

Photo by alexmia

 

Nurturing an Inclusive Workplace

Your employees are your greatest resource. Your biggest asset. Your power. Your drive. Your agility and foundation! You’ve created a great team–you’re sure of it. But when was the last time you checked to make sure you’ve got the diversity of talent your company needs? 

Are you sure you have everything you need in your proverbial toolbox? Having one full of just hammers is going to be useless unless you’ve got nails. And screws, and levels, and safety glasses, and saws, and…you get it. When you hire a bunch of people with the same skills, the same backgrounds, and the same experiences, you’re selling yourself short and weakening your potential. The more diversity of thought, experiences, strengths you have on your team, the more successful your business will be.   

Ensure you’re putting an emphasis on protecting and nurturing diversity within your workplace by consistently and objectively assessing where your company is falling short and where it’s excelling. The following are some key areas of operations to consider.   

Inclusive language 

Every business has a voice. It comes across in every communication aspect of your company, from external marketing to internal communications. The atmosphere of your business to your employee handbooks, internal surveys, data collection, and emails are all opportunities for communication. Consider how you use language that can apply to the broadest range of people. Some example to consider: 

  • Disabled vs. person with disabilities  
  • Deaf vs. hearing impaired 
  • Spouse vs. wife/husband
  • Salesman vs. salesperson 

Learning to identify language differences can feel subtle and takes practice. In the past, you may have unknowingly assumed gender, forced someone to choose an incorrect personal identification, or otherwise left out or incorrectly referenced a marginalized group of people. Don’t dwell on the past, look ahead, and persistently ask yourselves and your team how you can improve.
 

Accessibility  

Identify areas where you can improve your company’s accessibility to people experiencing different forms of disability.  

  • How accessible is your workplace to people using wheelchairs?  
  • Is your office equipment (printers, copy machines) accessible from a seated position? 
  • Do you offer accessible employee desk space? 
  • Does your office space have ramps and elevators? 
  • Does your company offer alternatives to phone calls for people with hearing impairments? 
  • Do the signs in your office have brail and raised lettering? 

To make working at your company more accessible, consider offering remote working positions. You may be surprised that remote employees tend to be more productive and engaged than those working from an office.  Whatever you do to improve accessibility to your office, know that solutions are evolving and developing, so what might have been unattainable five years ago may be possible for your company now.  

Representation 

Chances are, your company has a website and social media presence. Take a look at what demographic your online presence represents. Do all your photos depict the same type of person? Are the only photos representing people with disabilities directly related to content about disabilities? That’s problematic in itself.  

The key is to choose photos and language that speak to the broadest range of people and not just to who you might think your customer is. Use your messaging to help build connection and understanding, reaching a greater variety of people and giving a voice and representation to traditionally marginalized groups.  

The more people your brand speaks to, the more comprehensive the range of prospective job candidates and customers you’ll attract. Seeing is believing. The more diversity you use in representations of customers, employees, and leadership, the easier it will be for people to see themselves in those roles. 

Hiring process  

Creating an unbiased hiring process can be a difficult task. Everyone’s got biases, and it’s a challenge to remove it from any process where humans have to choose other humans. So how do you go about minimizing bias from your hiring process? There’s a crazy amount of information on this topic, but here are four of the most common points.  

  1. Educate your hiring managers about bias. Give them opportunities to learn how to identify their own and other’s prejudices.  
  2. Review your job description. Consider how you can eliminate adjectives that are associated with one gender, ethnicity, or body type.   
  3. Standardize, standardize, standardize! Make sure you’re approaching each interview with the same set of questions and expectations.  
  4. Consider using blind recruitment strategies. Try removing identifying characteristics from the hiring process such as names, age, education, etc.  
  5. Internal assessment. Constantly ask questions to stay on top of your game.  
  • Are my employees trained to identify their own biases? 
  • Do we require qualifications that might not be necessary? 
  • Is our ideal candidate defined? If so, what are the qualities that might be based on bias? 

Leading with inclusivity is a constant learning process and not a one-and-done check on your to-do list. Prioritizing diversity within your hiring process takes regular evaluation and improvement.  

Leadership 

Take a look at your company: how many people in leadership positions are the same sex and ethnicity? Hiring and promoting based on sex or ethnicity is obviously unethical. But the demographics of your leadership team could give valuable insight into your promoting and hiring practices. Take pains to make sure that people with the same titles are paid the same amount. Take a critical eye to your company hierarchy.  

Make your moves 

When you’re evaluating where you can improve, the best thing you can do is be honest with yourself and your employees. Understand you can never learn too much. Set an example as a leader who is always willing and devoted to nurturing a diverse and accessible workplace. The better you become at it, the higher the potential of your workforce will become. Your culture will thrive with varying experiences, strengths, and points of view, and your company will follow.  

 

Content provided by Q4iNetwork and partners

Photo by Leigh Prather

Nurturing Employee Wellness in Uncertain Times

Two years ago, a report by Gallup found that nearly a quarter of the 7,500 full-time employees they surveyed felt burned out “very often or always” with another 44% who reported feeling burned out some of the time. You’re probably aware of the massive costs, increased risk, and decreased health of both individuals and organizations that suffer from burnout. It’s not something you want in your business in the best of times.

But what about when your company, community, and economy is under immense pressure from an external source you can’t control? Do you double down on what you believe most critically demands your attention and put things like employee wellness aside?

Although you may be feeling pressure to cut down on extraneous programs to conserve effort, time, and money, it’s critical to remember that your employees are going to make or break your success during this trying time.

The ability of your employees to successfully navigate particularly stressful situations is deeply influenced by the ability of your company to support them. It wouldn’t be a reach to suggest the interaction and experience employees have within their role in your company has a significant impact on their quality of life. Especially now, when employees are struggling to find a new balance of working from home, often with children, and isolated from their communities.

Assess the tools available

As a leader during a challenging time, it’s crucial to take stock of what resources are available. Now is not the time to get tunnel vision. Keep your mind open to new and different solutions than you may be used to. Employee wellness isn’t just built from having enough time off or fair compensation. Wellness is a multifaceted thing, with many different aspects your business can focus its influence on.  

Outsourcing employee wellbeing programs

There are several organizations whose sole focus is to help businesses develop and nurture their employees’ wellbeing. Here are a few examples:

  • Thrive Global offers a multi-pronged approach to improving employee wellbeing and productivity through behavior change programs, educational content and resources, and digital solutions designed to help individuals make positive changes.
  • Whil is a platform that provides goal-based resilience training for individuals through targeted courses focusing on twelve aspects of employee wellbeing.
  • RestoreResilience provides stress-reduction and lifestyle improvement programs targeted to specific groups of employees. Their programs use a combination of smart technology and individualized coaching outreach to help employees make small meaningful adjustments and improvements in their lifestyle.

Getting creative

If your company isn’t set up to incorporate larger programs, there are numerous ways you can make smaller, yet still impactful changes to your employee experience. To help, let’s break down employee wellness into a few categories with examples for each.

Nutrition

  • Consider helping your employees boost their nutritional health by working with meal delivery services like Blue Apron or Sun Basket to offer food at a discounted price.
  • Offer discounts to online cooking classes and resources from services like the NYTimes Cooking subscription and ChefSteps.
  • Purchase gift cards from local restaurants (a great way to support your local community) to give to your employees. If you’re a local business, promote this idea to employers in your area and provide incentives. (i.e., purchase $1,000 of gift cards and receive $100 free!)

Mental Health

  • Remote counseling services have skyrocketed recently. Consider working with companies like Talkspace and BetterHelp to provide your employees with mental health services that will help them navigate this challenging time.

Fitness

  • Consider reaching out to local fitness instructors and yoga teachers to offer virtual training sessions and classes to your employees every week.

Financial

  • Consider implementing a program like Compt to provide your employees with a monthly stipend they can use towards their wellness. This is a great way to find something that fits your specific budget while providing employees with the freedom to choose what they will spend it on. This increases the chance they will actually use what they purchased. A win-win!

Their wellness is your wellness

However you choose to help your employees maintain their wellness during this challenging time, be sure that you are doing something. Even the smallest acts make a difference. Remember, how you treat your employees now will influence their relationship with you for the rest of their employment. By giving them what they need now, you’re ensuring their long-term loyalty, engagement, and productivity. Think healthy employees = healthy business. It’s good for everyone.

 

Content provided by Q4iNetwork and partners

Photo by racorn

Fostering Emotional Wellness for Your Remote Workforce

Whether you’re new to managing remote employees, or you’re an old hand at it, understanding how to meet the individual needs of newly remote workers is central to ensuring your team is functioning successfully. Now more than ever, it’s critical that employers take extra steps to help their employees navigate the fear and uncertainty posed by COVID-19.  

With many businesses just becoming acquainted with the ins and outs of remote work, its too easy for business owners to get wrapped up in smoothing out the wrinkles in functionality and forget that their workers are facing an exceptionally challenging time.  

Chances are, your company and employees are facing some of these challenges yourselves. It’s important to remember that it’s going to be your employees who get your company through this. By supporting your employees, you’re supporting the very foundation your business sits on. Plus, it’s just the right thing to do.  

Start with care 

It’s easy to laugh it off, or insist that you don’t have time, but first things first: take care of yourself! If the leaders of your company are tired, stressed out, and suffering, your teams are going to feel it.  

Connect with your leadership team often and check in with them repeatedly. You may have to ask how they are doing more than once. Their first instinct may be to brush off their anxiety, doubt, or frustration. But if you follow up your first “How are you?” with “So how are you, really?” you may get a very different answer. The same goes for the teams they manage. 

These conversations may seem daunting but go into them recognizing you don’t have to have solutions to their feelings. Often just a listening ear or some words of encouragement is all they need to feel relief from their stress.   

Listening to these answers can be draining, too. If you checked in with five people today and four of them expressed anxiety and doubt to which you had to respond, it can quickly burn you out. So have a way to take care of yourself as well. Meditation, exercise, or peer discussion groups can be a great release for your own built-up anxiety and stress.   

Remote work is touted as a great solution that can raise productivity and employee engagement. Still, for some employees, it’s exceptionally challenging, and to most people who are new to working remotely, it takes time to adjust. The stress of navigating a new working situation compounded with the anxiety of dealing with the pandemic may be putting employees in a particularly challenging position.  

Acknowledging this is the first step to supporting your employees. Working remotely can cause feelings of isolation, so ensuring they don’t feel alone in their struggle or experience is a vital part of helping them navigate the change.  

Connect, connect, connect 

Connecting through check-ins and one-on-one meetings in an employee-manager relationship is a great place to start. If you usually have monthly check-ins, consider bumping it up to a weekly occurrence.  

Manager-to-employee check-ins are essential, but making sure your teams are connecting as well is also critical to helping them combat feelings of isolation and encouraging team building and engagement.   

  • Consider setting up weekly group happy hours where the only thing on the agenda is connecting with peers and catching up. Keep them casual and encourage people to eat and drink. Bring your employees together by sharing funny stories from the previous week and celebrating successes.  
  • Be a source of reliable information for your employees to depend on. At the beginning or end of each week, provide them with local resources and information that may help them address personal challenges brought on by the virus.  
  • If your teams are substantial, consider setting up a buddy system, or support groups of up to three employees. Encourage them to meet with each other throughout the week. Encourage them to work on challenges together and to keep leadership informed of any particular needs that arise.  

Take the lead 

Remember, your workforce is a living, breathing animal. It needs connection, encouragement, and time to care for itself. If you want to ensure your team is prioritizing these needs, you must lead by example. If your productivity or work quality drops, respond with care and understanding.  

A steady hand and even voice now will mean a more durable and healthier workforce later. The whole world is in this together, and we must be patient as we find solutions to the challenges we face.  

 

Content provided by Q4iNetwork and partners

Photo by luckyguy123