Early last year, SMG—along with companies around the world—faced operational challenges brought on by the pandemic and had to quickly adapt to life of remote working. While ironing out the logistics and day-to-day details were important, a big priority for us was also ensuring employees continued to feel supported and connected while working from home, not just professionally, but on a personal level as well.
Collecting employee feedback is an integral part of not just what we do, but who we are. And so to get a better understanding of the challenges our employees were facing while adjusting to this new lifestyle, we kept an open dialogue about their needs. Not surprisingly, mental health was a common theme throughout these conversations.
With Mental Health America reporting a skyrocketing increase in people looking for help with anxiety and depression this past year, it’s imperative organizations prioritize the mental wellness needs of their employees. To help guide your efforts, here are a few action items to consider.
1. Provide resources promoting mindfulness
Though working from home offers some perks (schedule flexibility, lack of commute, more comfortable pants), it can also be very isolating and stressful. Helping employees find ways to be more mindful throughout their workday can help reduce that stress level and make them feel more connected.
There are a lot of ways to promote mindfulness. Some insurance providers are putting a greater emphasis on emotional and behavioral health, like Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kansas City’s Mindful by Blue KC program. The new initiative helps members address conditions like stress, depression, and anxiety with tools and services such as mindful advocates, online therapy, and employer workshops.
Another way to advocate mindfulness is to offer complimentary educational programs to employees. SMG recently launched two pilot programs centered around helping individuals develop self-awareness and self-understanding skills to improve engagement, resilience, and overall wellness.
2. Use meetings as an opportunity to inspire positivity
With employees working from home, regular all-company check-ins aren’t just important for keeping everyone up-to-speed on important business happenings, they’re also a way to keep employees connected with each other.
SMG started implementing a Tell Me Something Good segment each month during our all-company Zoom meetings. We ask employees to share some good news—ranging from marriage and birth announcements to pet adoptions, home projects, and fun family videos.
We also regularly showcase new hires through introductory video clips, ensuring these employees don’t feel “lost in the mix” by working remotely and not getting the chance to meet their coworkers and leadership team face-to-face. The video spotlights, which include fun tidbits about the employee, help everyone get acquainted from afar.
3. Drum up some healthy (and fun) competition
When last year’s Kansas City Corporate Challenge was cancelled due to COVID, our employees got creative with ways to feed our company’s competitive spirit. For the months of September and October, employees participated in a Fall Fun Challenge, which featured a series of 40 activities in fitness and wellness categories.
Employees documented their achievements—like counting the number of stairs to reach the Liberty Memorial, completing a 5K, carving a pumpkin, or creating their own mini golf course—with videos and pictures. For each activity completed, employees increased their chance of winning a prize—with those completing all activities eligible to win a $300 gift card grand prize.
The challenge was such a success, our UK team created their own as well, and we’re now in the throes of the Winter Fun edition. The challenges are a creative way to foster engagement and participate in something collectively, even if it’s done on an individual basis. We also heard employees appreciated the push to do things out of their comfort zone and break up their normal routines.
4. Send support via snail mail
It may sound simple or even old-fashioned, but don’t underestimate the power of a care package. Who doesn’t love receiving mail that isn’t a bill or junk made for the recycling bin? Sending these thoughtful gifts can have a big impact on employee morale, no matter how simple (or elaborate) they may be.
We’ve established working from home can feel very isolating. And even if you are regularly connecting with employees on Zoom, it doesn’t fully replace the feeling of in-person interactions. Care packages can be a tangible reminder to employees they are valued and appreciated. Include information on those mindfulness sessions or behavioral health resources available to them. Offer support and reassurance with a motivational card. A little can go a long way.
Recognize employee needs vary
These ideas I’ve mentioned should in no way be considered a one-size-fits-all approach. Mental wellness is complicated and unique to the individual. Each of your employees is going through their own personal challenges and what works for some may not work for others.
This is why it’s important to diversify your offerings and prioritize the individualistic needs of employees. This takes continued dialogue—and follow-through—so employees always feel heard and supported. To learn more on ways to drive these engagement efforts, download our employee experience best practice guide.
Kim Klosak | VP, Human Resources