In 2020, we had to break up with the normal and embrace the new, reevaluate our relationship to change, and use our voices to fight for the wellbeing of humanity. Despite everything, we’re still thankful for what this year has taught us—especially concerning the importance of wellbeing.
Alongside our friends at Donut and ThinkHuman, we recently brought together a panel of HR and company leaders to discuss strategies for supporting employees and elevating their wellbeing. Our panelists included:
- Hakemia Jackson: Cultural Strategist & Executive Coach, Divinely Powered [Moderator]
- LaToya Lyn: Vice President of Talent Strategy, Oscar Health
- Sarah-Valin Bloom: Associate Vice President, People Enablement, Learning & Wellness, Quartet Health
- Lynette Barksdale: Head of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion, Epic Games
- Kevin Yip: COO & Co-Founder, Blueboard
Watch the full event recording here, and then keep reading to dig into the top takeaways from the webinar below:
4 Strategies to Create a Culture of Wellbeing in 2021
1. Don’t Expect 100% from Your Employees
Most of us have been guilty of asking employees to bring their 100% to work. But have we taken the time to think about what this implies?
Your employees, just like everyone else, have other things that demand their time and energy—such as their families, partners, hobbies, and health. To ask them to spend 100% of their energy in the workplace is unrealistic and can result in burnout.
This, in turn, is what leads to a toxic culture. As Lynette reminds us, “culture is rooted in the wellbeing of people.” This makes company values awards also a great recognition strategy for engagement. Below are recommendations from our panelists to help leaders be more considerate of their employees:
Take a holistic view of every employee.
Let’s say you have a demanding project you want to hand over to one of your top-performing employees. At the same time, you know this person is overwhelmed because they have a sick child at home. Right now, much of that employee’s attention is likely going to be invested in their family. To ask them to take on additional responsibilities at work would set them up for failure and an immense amount of stress. Looking at each employee’s life in this holistic way is a great practice that can help you fully appreciate what you’re asking of them. You might consider adjusting due dates, lengthening timelines, or providing added support to lessen the stress.
Acknowledge the role of wellbeing.
It may be tempting to say, “but we’re running a business and have so much work that needs to get done. We can’t afford to take everyone’s personal lives into account.” In response, Kevin reminds leaders that people can’t, and won’t, produce their best work if they’re not healthy. "You as an employee can't do your job in the way you'd like without being energized. Wellbeing is a prerequisite to work." Think about ways your company can help employees prioritize their health and implement new employee wellness programs like a monthly wellness stipend or easy access to mental health experts. For new hires, consider personalized employee onboarding gifts that will ensure they are taken care of with a unique experience from the start.
Don’t expect everyone to lead.
Lynette encourages leaders to remove the notion that everyone needs to be a manager or executive. When you sign up to take care of other people—which is essentially what being a leader entails—that means you have to give something of yourself. Not everyone is willing, or has the ability, to make this sacrifice. Instead, give your employees the freedom to choose their own path and respect the decision of those who want to remain individual contributors.
2. Lead by Example
Leading by example goes far beyond just talking about wellbeing during your all-hands meetings. There’s a significant amount of behind-the-scenes work and accountability that goes into this practice as well.
Our panelists shared a few ideas on what leaders can do to model the right behaviors for employees:
Practice self reflection.
As a leader, you can only lead people as far as you’ve led yourself: you can’t forget to take care of your own wellbeingTo do this, self-reflection is key. Take the time to figure out what depletes you, what energizes you, and what your triggers are. When you understand how to manage yourself, it makes it much easier to manage others.
Demonstrate through actions.
If you want to make a resounding impact as a leader, you must take action.For example, Sarah-Valin publicly blocks off time on her calendar for therapy sessions and encourages other people to do the same. Kevin regularly takes mental health days and asks his employees to take a minimum of 12 days off for themselves each year. Actions like this demonstrate to your employees that you’re not just focused on optics—you genuinely care about the programs you put in place.
3. Give Employees Options
When it comes to wellbeing, there’s no one-size-fits-all approach. Some people may find meditation to be incredibly helpful while others prefer a sweaty workout to de-stress. As an HR leader, it’s important to give employees options when crafting a benefits package or putting resources together for your company.
Aside from diverse benefits, our panelists suggest the following for employers who want to give their teams more choices when it comes to promoting employee wellbeing:
Empower managers to advocate for their teams.
Few are more familiar with the needs of employees than managers. That’s why Kevin recommends empowering managers to advocate for the wellbeing of their teams. For example, a manager may notice that their team is burned out. So they give everyone an option to either take additional days off work or choose an experiential reward to help them unwind. Allowing team leaders to take this type of initiative can allow you to scale the culture of wellbeing at your company.
Recognize that not everyone has options.
It’s also important to acknowledge that not everyone can take advantage of wellbeing resources you offer. Some employees may not be able to afford to take unpaid time off, and others may have physical limitations that make virtual workout classes inaccessible. In cases like this, encourage your employees to think about what would have a positive impact on their wellbeing, while still being accessible, and help them start these conversations with company leaders.
4. Make Wellbeing a Habit
Habits are powerful because they’re automatic. You don’t have to think about getting dressed in the morning or hitting the ‘start’ button on your coffee machine because those behaviors are deeply embedded in your mind.
This is exactly how we should approach wellbeing. Instead of randomly engaging in wellbeing activities, we should strive to make certain behaviors a part of our daily lifestyle. Here’s what our panelists recommend:
Have an accountability partner.
Or be one for someone else! LaToya makes it a point to regularly check in with her wife and son to make sure they’re doing OK. Lynette asks her team members to share their wellbeing goals with her, so she can make sure that they’re engaging in the behaviors that are going to keep them happy and healthy. Tap into your network of friends, family, and colleagues to look for and provide accountability.
Schedule one-on-one meetings with yourself.
This concept might sound odd at first, but it’s no different than having a regular check-in with a direct report. The purpose is to survey how you’re feeling, what you’re struggling with, and where you can improve. Hold yourself accountable by scheduling these self-meetings on your calendar and taking notes. The goal is to keep a finger on the pulse when it comes to your own wellbeing and take action when you find yourself low on energy.
We can use the challenges we’ve faced this year to present an even better, healthier version of ourselves in 2021. Use these recommendations from our panelists to inspire action at your company around wellbeing, whether you're incentivizing employee wellbeing or your own.