5 key areas for a company culture of wellbeing post-Covid-19

Great companies are born in bad economies, they say, but it doesn’t happen by itself. Companies around the world are realizing that their people’s wellbeing is now suffering. How can you support your people in what may be the most difficult period in their life? How can you create a culture that supports wellbeing AND drives impact?

As we prepare to return to the office, now is a brilliant time to evaluate your approach to culture and wellbeing. First, you need to establish the facts of how work is changing. Second, you need to understand the key areas of a culture of wellbeing that truly drives impact.

5 things we know about how work is changing after Covid-19

Everyone talks about “the new normal”. But how will work change? What will persist? And what routines will we drop like a hot potato after the lockdown? The truth is, we know very little still. But here are 5 trends we already see for work after Covid-19:

  • Rapid digitalization of work: In history’s largest working-from-home experiment, we’ve (finally) woken up to the possibilities of digital technology, realizing that human connection online may not be the same, but it’s not necessarily worse, either. Whether employers like it or not, remote work is here to stay. So we better figure out how to adapt our physical offices for in-person connection, and make remote work productive, self-led and social.
  • A polarised workforce: The work burden of the crisis has been unevenly distributed. Millions have seen their calendars emptied, while others face more pressure than ever. Yet others have treated the lockdown as a mini-holiday. This may cause a deep sense of unfairness – in society and among co-workers.
  • Acute stress and anxiety. Our mental health is suffering: a high workload, working with kids at home, worry about financial security, loss of purpose… all trigger acute mental health issues. Even people who are normally well balanced feel the effects, with 64 percent reporting problems sleeping due to anxiety. Isolation exacerbates the crisis, and although we may soon return to the office, the mental effects are bound to linger for long.
  • Leadership resilience stress tested. In 2016, the World Economic Forum added emotional intelligence to their list of top 10 workplace skills for 2020. They had no idea how right they would be. In times of uncertainty, leaders need a paradoxical set of skills: bold decisions and deliberate calm, short-term focus and long-term purpose, empathic leadership and smarts to outperform the market. Leaders need to ensure their own wellbeing – now more than ever.
  • High expectations towards employers: As governments and media grapple with public trust, employers are now the most trusted. What’s more, 78 percent expect their employer to protect them. This presents an opportunity: it’s easy to cuddle employees in good times, but how you act when times are tough reveals your true colors. Now is the best opportunity in a decade to boost loyalty, retention and employer image.

5 key areas for a culture of wellbeing in a post-Covid world

A growing body of research links employee wellbeing and business performance. But wellbeing is not only about individuals, we’re increasingly starting to understand how culture drives wellbeing. Here are 5 key areas of an impactful culture of wellbeing:

1 | Trust so much it hurts.

Trust is THE defining factor of high performance: companies with high trust have +286% higher total return to shareholders compared to low trust organizations. In the beginning of the crisis we heard from employees who were forced to write daily “remote work reports”. Outch. Granted, trust is more difficult at a distance, especially if you are used to seeing your employees daily. But trust is more important than ever. How trusting is your company culture? Just saying it aloud can make a huge difference. Try saying “I trust you to make this decision”, “I trust this project to you”, or “I trust you to get it done, and let me know how I can help”.

2 | Self-leadership revolution: from doing to results.

Companies we’ve worked with have noticed this positive side-effect from the crisis: when you don’t see employees visually working, leaders must focus less on the doing, more on the results. In short, we need to resist the urge to micro-manage, and embrace self-leadership. What are you trying to achieve? What is the end result? Who is the owner? Set high performance standards and track results, not tasks. Keep your people accountable, but trust (and support) them to lead themselves.

3 | Optimize remote and in-person:

Innovation requires engagement, personal productivity loves solitude. Start to find the right balance in your meetings. Meetings are most effective when everyone contributes, and when some are in the same room and some remote, inclusion rarely happens. Critically evaluate your meetings: which ones will you continue to do remotely, and which ones benefit from in-person presence? Early morning or late afternoon calls: remotely, gives more personal flexibility. Status checks and reviews: remotely, makes us more effective. When you need to develop something new: in-person, innovation just loves company.

4 | How are you? Keep the human touch for psychological safety.

This crisis has clearly surfaced differences in personal life situation: while some have been alone in their apartment for weeks, others have managed three kids and two dogs 24/7. We’ve visited our colleagues’ bedrooms, literally, and bonded over unruly kids. Closeness breeds psychological safety, which is the #1 trait of high-performing teams. As we slowly return to work, how can you keep up the closeness? How can you make space for differences in life situation and working style? At Hintsa we’ve found that a simple round of “How are you?” in the beginning of team meetings are effective in adding the human touch and fostering collectivism.

5 | Balance “one-size-fits-all” with “only-for-you”.

Wellbeing is a brilliant social glue, but it is also deeply personal. A culture of wellbeing needs to strike a balance between what’s offered for everyone (make it simple & social), and what’s offered for those who truly need it (make it personalized). It doesn’t need to be complex: we’ve found one shared weekly session to be effective in our own organization – body-friendly workouts and brain-friendly breaks facilitated by a coach or a specialist. Learning something new and sharing tips with your colleagues keeps the culture alive. And for those who really, truly need support: keep a low threshold and make it genuinely personalized and impactful. Some of your employees may be going through the most difficult phase in their life right now, and some of your key employees may be on the brink of burnout. Don’t let them down.

This is not meant as an exhaustive list for a winning culture – we could talk all day about leadership, psychological safety, mastery climate, and so on. Our main point is this: you should take employee wellbeing as seriously as your strategy. The “soft stuff” doesn’t just happen, you need to make it happen. Great companies are born in bad economies, and brilliant employers are forged when culture is crumbling. Brilliant employers put people first and make wellbeing part of their dna.

Juha Äkräs, Hintsa Performance

Juha has two decades worth of executive experience from demanding people leadership positions – among them as Nokia’s Executive Vice President of HR, leading Nokia through the massive turnaround to refocus on the network business. Juha founded Hintsa Performance together with Aki Hintsa in 2014 and has served as CEO and now as Executive Chairman.

This and a range of other topics will be discussed in the Technopolis Wellness Talks webinars powered by Hintsa Performance throughout 2020. Hintsa Performance coaches and experts will share their experience and tips on work, wellbeing, performance, and life in general. Join us online, and invite your colleague too. Juha shared his views in Technopolis Wellness Talks webinar.

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The above text is from the Technopolis Wellness Talks "How to Improve Company Culture and Environment of Wellbeing in Challenging Times?" webinar which was organized on May 13, 2020. Please find the webinar recording below and here.

Webinars are organized in cooperation with Hintsa Performance.

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