- Richard Liu, Esq. (Managing Counsel, ILS)
It's been exactly one year since the pandemic began for us in the U.S. As most of the workforce still working from home, HR professionals and managers are increasingly sensing that the pandemic is undermining the wellbeing of their workforce. Just last month, it's reported that more than 40% of the adults in the U.S. are currently suffering from anxiety or depressive disorder, a 400% increase from the year before.
So what do you do?
Here are three things you can easily implement to improve your team members' wellbeing:
1. Ask candid questions.
No more robotic questions like "how are you?" and meaningless answers like "fine, thank you, and you?" Really check on the wellbeing of your team members with specific questions like:
“How are you really doing?”
Or press for another reply by asking, “what did you do last night?” or “what are you looking forward to today?”
"Would you tell me if and when you’re not fine? Because I’m available to talk."
"Just want you to know that we are a team, and we are in this together."
If the person still seems reluctant to share, consider sharing some of your personal challenges first. Vulnerability invites trust. You will be surprised how people can open up after hearing your story.
The goal isn’t to be invasive into your team members' lives. It is simply to let them know that you’re paying attention to them, and that you care enough to follow up. If someone wants to talk—they’ll let you know.
2. Follow through with the one-on-ones, and engage in reflective listening.
There is no doubt that working from home could be more stressful than working in the office. That means one-on-ones, or "catching-up" sessions, could easily fall through the cracks.
Don't let it happen.
As a HR professional or a manager, one-on-one sessions could be the most effective tool to understand your workforce, making them feel valued and making your business unit more productive. It is a win-win situation. So minimize the chance of cancelling or delaying those individual sessions. They are important.
When in the session, try something called "reflective listening." It means paying close attention to both the content of the conversation and the feeling of the person who is sharing it. This helps you dig deeper and discovery the motive behind the things being said.
The key is to focus completely on the other person. Hear what they say, listen for their tone of voice, and watch their body language and gestures. Most importantly, remain silent until they’re done, and resist the temptation to offer advice. Next, reflect back what you heard to ensure it’s accurate. Ask follow-up questions and only weigh in if they ask for advice.
3. Encourage wellness goals and do them together!
As many of us already know by now, our physical wellness directly impacts our mental wellbeing. Since most of us have made career goals, why not set wellness goals?
These shouldn’t be prescriptive, like asking everyone to walk 10,000 steps a day. Instead, you should engage in an interactive process with your team member, asking them to pick a personal objective like logging more sleep, eating extra vegetables, or simply going onto a hike. They can make it public or keep the goal to themselves. Either way, you can support them by creating timelines and offering rewards to everyone who hits their targets.
Finally, I just want to say that this pandemic has been hard on everyone physically, mentally, and family-wise. For HRs and managers, you are the backbone of your organization and the glue that holds it together. As you face more challenges each day, why not give the tips above a try?
In the end, you will get a team that is easier to manage, more happy employees, and if you are lucky, a life-long friend.
Richard Liu, Esq. is the Managing Counsel of ILS. He serves clients as a management-side defense lawyer. Richard regularly advises Fortune 500 companies and startups on employment, labor, and commercial matters, particularly specializing in the defense of claims for breach of contract, wrongful termination, workplace harassment and retaliation, employment discrimination, wage and hour claims, and trade secret misappropriation.
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