Continuous political tension, racial injustice, and overall lack of human connection are taking a toll on mental health. As a result, organizational practices are being reprioritized to meet these needs.
The pandemic illuminated specific weaknesses in workplace culture that otherwise might have been overlooked. Organizations must deeply consider their practices surrounding mental health across all levels, providing routine management training on how to recognize and address declining mental health signs among staff and promote trust.
According to Bank of America's 2020 Workplace Benefits report, 37 percent of employees feel there is a lot more their employers can do to support overall well-being. To address this, I sought the advice of Jessie Lajoie, people operations lead at Doodle. Lajoie shared insight into three top ways organizations can rework their communication practices to better care for employees.
Promote transparent communication
Last year's onslaught of stressful world events caused many organizational leaders to reassess open communication practices in the workplace. A career development study by Doodle found that 40 percent of respondents noted impersonal or less engaged relationships with team members or bosses, and 66 percent reported challenges scheduling one-on-one meetings with their bosses.
As organizations form strategies for permanent remote models, mental health is projected to remain at the forefront. "To begin, management needs to be trained on how to manage employees with transparent communication and empathetic leadership abilities," says Lajoie.
She also recommends tactics such as incorporating weekly one-on-one check-ins with management to promote discussion around any emerging mental health issues and scheduling virtual happy hours to keep teams connected.
Mitigate meeting overload
According to research by the Harvard Business School, the pandemic drove a 13 percent increase in remote meetings and extended the average workday by 8.2 percent.
The phrase "Zoom fatigue" became increasingly common, as employees found themselves significantly drained after a day of remote meetings. Now that teams have spread to new locations and many are committing to remote work in the future, addressing employee burnout and meeting overload is essential to maintaining employee well-being and focus moving forward.
There are a few methods to consider when combating this new trend of overworking. For example:
- Gauge the number of meetings employees have each week and determine if any can be eliminated.
- Rework current team calendars by creating shorter weekly check-ins and larger biweekly catch-up meetings.
- Test out new types of schedules. Lajoie explains that setting a monthly "focus week" as dedicated time for employees to complete their work is one way to mitigate meeting burnout in the remote world.
Evaluate hiring and onboarding practices
Many companies faced the challenge of hiring and onboarding an employee remotely for the first time in 2020. Lajoie shares that the necessity to switch up hiring practices became clear during Doodle's transition to remote work, "It's more difficult to connect behind a screen, so we've reformed interviews to be less formal, asking more questions about who the person is and introducing teams casually over coffee."
Doodle also improved their remote onboarding after realizing new hires didn't know who to go to for certain issues. "To address this, we make sure they have 'buddies' to guide them throughout onboarding, and structure full learning for where they can go for specific information, such as key HR contacts, team leads, company resources, and even best local takeout spots," Lajoie says.
The future of work is one that no longer glorifies long hours and a business-first mentality. Organizations increasingly recognize that employee well-being and mental health comes before all else. Leadership everywhere can uncover new ways to support employees in remote work, and can begin by ensuring open communication, limiting unproductive meetings, and making new employees comfortable and part of the team from the get-go.