Happiness at work: 5 tips to help remote team members thrive
Two-and-a-half years since COVID-19 first hit, the novelty of working from home has worn off for many people. Cuddles with furry ‘co-workers’ during online meetings only keep us smiling for so long – sometimes remote working can feel very isolating.
At Formative we’ve shifted to a fully flexible hybrid model – and with team members based as far away from our Beaconsfield office as Scotland and Wales (and even, in my case, Canada!), we’re taking their wellbeing very seriously.
Workers who feel trusted, valued and engaged are more likely to be productive and less likely to experience burnout.
Helping employees to be happy is not just the right thing to do, there’s a strong business case for it – companies that address mental health and wellbeing outperform those that don’t.
Here are five key things we’ve learned during our transition to fully flexible working, to ensure that team members thrive in a remote work environment.
1. Ensure that people can get to know each other
As a fast-growing company, we’ve doubled in size in the past two years, onboarding dozens of new team members since 2020. These are people who have never known coming into our office daily – and may not get to meet everyone face-to-face for at least a few months.
Our onboarding focuses on helping people build trust and rapport with as many colleagues across the business as possible through 15×15 sessions – 15-minute Zoom calls with 15 different people in the first month.
At our all-company awaydays, we have now embedded a practice of “speed dating” sessions before cross-department brainstorms in breakout groups – and of course, the ever-popular BBQ and drinks.
2. Nurture purpose through dedicated development time
As many as 70% of us define our purpose through work – and a sense of purpose can help us in the pursuit of happiness.
As mental health charity Mind notes: “A positive culture that values all staff and invests in their skills and development builds the trust and integrity essential to maintain commitment and productivity levels.”
This year, we’ve introduced two weeks of dedicated, bookable time to help team members achieve their personal development goals – and nurture that sense of purpose.
For our design team, this time could be spent experimenting with new software to create eye-catching assets, or for writers it could be learning from experts at the Royal Meteorological Society on how to write about climate change.
3. Have an active mental health team
Lockdowns took a toll on workers’ mental health, with as many as 80% in the UK saying that working from home was having a negative impact in 2020.
When a new team member joins Formative, part of their induction involves a presentation from our mental health first aid team leader. But it’s not a case of performing an information drop and stopping there.
Our team of trained mental health first aiders and ambassadors puts a lot of time and effort into developing a regular stream of initiatives to support everyone’s wellbeing. During a fortnightly slot in our morning huddle, they offer diverse tips for staying well while working from home.
This can be anything from stretching, to sharing pictures of unusual places on our lunchtime walks, or going on ‘microadventures’ – short, inexpensive local trips that are still fun and rewarding.
4. Build trust through open communication
Trust is a two-way street and is key to team wellbeing. It’s built through communication and transparency. As Mind notes, staff who feel “involved and well informed about what’s happening in the organisation” will be more motivated.
Our all-company huddles first thing in the morning bring us together and enable updates on how we’re performing, ensuring that each colleague knows how their role fits into the bigger picture. They also help us reach our goals. Team meetings achieve something similar on a smaller scale.
But our managers also organise regular 1:1 check-ins to allow team members to air any concerns – from work to personal wellbeing. Team members don’t have to wait for scheduled meetings, though – we encourage anyone to reach out for support at any time.
5. Keep meeting-free hours to support creativity
Zoom fatigue is real: one in four workers in the US say they are often worn out by video calls. We know we’re less productive – and less perky – when we spend all our time staring at people in boxes on a screen.
So we introduced a two-hour meeting-free period every morning, to give all team members a break from Zoom and the time to get work done without interruption.
We also ensure that everyone knows they can keep their camera switched off whenever they want – and we encourage the use of voice calls instead of video calls for 1:1s to take the pressure off being always on show.
Wellbeing needs constant attention
For us at Formative, our fully flexible mix of remote and in-person working is here to stay – and wellbeing in a hybrid scenario is now embedded in our culture. It’s something we’ll keep working on, because we know that wellbeing needs nurturing on an ongoing basis.
From the moment we give someone a job, we want to make sure they’re happy, productive and focused on building a long career at Formative.
We take every opportunity to connect with each other and, when needed, disconnect, to make sure we’re hitting the optimal work-life balance.
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About the author: Erin Harris is Formative Content’s Senior Director of Coaching and Performance. Connect with her on LinkedIn here.
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