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Yes, There Can Still Be Positive Workplace Disruption

Orchestrate a new conversation with your employees about their health and well-being.

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Everything in our lives has fundamentally changed in 2020. We can’t just run to the store for a forgotten item. We can’t visit our families, our parents or our children and grandchildren. No more dropping in on friends for fun. For those of us who have loved ones who are first responders or in positions considered essential, we worry every day for their safety and for the safety of those in our homes. And the experience of work has been completely disrupted, even for people used to working remotely. School-aged children are often sharing office space with parents. The sandwich generation is now navigating working from home while keeping the peace with three generations living together. Instead of in-person meetings, web conferencing has become the norm.

Maskot | Getty Images

According to the World Health Organization, our physical and financial health are not the only things at risk. When faced with constant forced isolation and loss of freedom, humans can face a downward spiral of depression, extreme fatigue and despair. The Energy Project founder and CEO, Tony Schwartz, suggests focusing energy on becoming aware of personal feelings as a good first step to creating internal calm despite the storm surrounding us. The challenge is that organizational energy levels are hard to measure. Or at least they were until now.

Over the past few years, we have seen a greater focus at work on creating inclusive environments of belonging and where health and well-being are viewed as an area of critical investment for each employee and leader. During the best of times, navigating soft topics can be uncomfortable for leaders and their subordinates. Now it is these very human conversations that just might be the glue that keeps your people engaged, connected and more committed than ever to the health and well-being of themselves and the company.

Related: Why Is Xerox Making Hand Sanitizer?

Employee-satisfaction surveys are no match for understanding the mood of your workforce during a crisis. Instead, Kevin Bowen, a consultant at The Spur Group, suggests making time for “wellness check-ins” to orchestrate more meaningful discussions between supervisors and direct reports while deepening relationships throughout your organization. Outlined in the infographic below, the Temperature Check question offers a practical, three-step approach for employees to identify their energy levels, assess burn rates and create a plan to recharge.

Infographic credit: The Spur Group/Kevin Bowen

Rather than creating more work for leaders, Bowen suggests that HR partner with leaders to start, stop and continue the following behaviors as they integrate temperature checks into people management.

What HR Should Start Doing

Rather than creating a big-bang approach or adding on additional workload to already over-packed days, consider starting a Temperature Check Pilot to ensure that cultural constructs are accommodated and that the approach is easily integrated into existing modes of business. It is also important to provide visibility about the pilot and transparency about outcomes with the organization so that people feel that their well-being is being prioritized.

“An example of this could be adding wellness check-ins into your existing meetings or blocking out specific time where employees across the organization can come together to connect and support their peers,” says Bowen.

What HR Should Stop Doing

For years, health-and-well-being programs have offered programs and rewards to employees for improving physical health through discounted gym memberships and monetary rewards incentives. HR departments should stop focusing solely on physical wellness.

“Bring care for the whole person into the workplace," Bowen advises. "Mental, financial, social, career, community — motivated by our shared goal as humans to become better versions of ourselves personally and professionally."

Related: Where's My Stimulus Check?

What HR Should Continue Doing

For years now, many HR departments have been proactively collecting employee-engagement metrics and seeking out feedback on the effectiveness of people programs and practices. Bowen believes this practice is critical to continue and must be followed through with communications and a plan of action.

“Understanding the voice of the employee is your guiding light to creating a customized employee experience that attracts, engages and retains top talent,” he says.

Bowen has practiced weekly wellness check-ins with his team over the past year, and concludes that, “My definition of a world-class employee experience is a workplace where people can be their authentic selves, connect with others and feel a sense of purpose." He has found that these check-ins offer the ability for HR to partner with business leaders on zeroing in on root causes, rather than symptoms, so that the right stress creators are targeted and remedied. And that's something we all need, now more than ever.

Patti Fletcher

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Patti Fletcher, Ph.D., is the author of Disrupters: Success Strategies from Women Who Break the Mold (Entrepreneur Press 2018), gender equity advocate and expert authority on how to create a culture of inclusion to drive real business results. Fletcher is recognized as a futurist; a student of the inclusive talent economy and future of leadership; an innovation-through-inclusion expert; and a writer, advisor and speaker on topics related to driving progress through people. She has been featured in Time magazine, Al-Jazeera, Forbes, Newsweek, Xconomy and The Muse and advises corporate executives and board members from lean startups to Fortune 100s. Connect with Fletcher on Facebook and Twitter, and be sure to vist the Workhuman blog for further insights.