06Jun

As an employer, taking care of and supporting your employees is the most important responsibility of running a business. Establishing an inclusive culture and focusing on employee health can boost productivity, encourage teamwork, and increase better communication. One way this can be accomplished is by offering wellness initiatives across the organization.

Types of wellness initiatives

Wellness programs, which can be held virtually or in-person, vary from topic to topic. But all are headed toward the same goal: to improve the health and wellbeing of your employees, both in and out of work. Generally led by a subject-matter expert, some examples of topics may include:

  • Mental health awareness
  • Nutrition facts vs. myths
  • Debt or financial management
  • Sleep management
  • Exercise tips and programs

Impact of wellness initiatives

The benefits of wellness programs are abundant. Not only can it improve employee health overall by providing education on sensitive subjects, but it can also elevate communication between teams by opening new conversation, increasing attendance rate in the office, and reducing stress levels overall.

Adina Goldman, Principal at Green Key and Head of Corporate Human Resources, mentions, “A dynamic wellness program is important for employees not only to address various wellness concerns that they may be experiencing in real time, but also to work preventatively by empowering employees with resources to get ahead of any wellness concerns that could arise. Further, by offering an employer-sponsored wellness program, employers are able to underscore how they view the importance of the health and well-being of their employees. When employees see this type of holistic approach put into action, it will likely lead to higher engagement and overall satisfaction with the company.”

All in all, offering webinars or in-person events to boost wellness across the company is a key step to becoming a supportive employer. It allows your employees to feel a sense of belonging in the workplace and assures them that you are listening. Every so often, be sure to send out company-wide surveys to determine the topics of conversation everyone would like to learn more or less about. It’s all about letting your people bring their best self to work.

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Green Key

Do We Really Need This Meeting?

Feeling the virtual meeting brain-drain? Get smarter about virtual teamwork with these four tips from Microsoft WorkLab.

2020 was the year of meeting overload with much of the workforce transitioning from in-office collaboration to working from home and collaborating virtually. Having a calendar full of calls and video conferences is not just draining, it can also take away from the valuable time teams could be getting work done instead of talking about work to be done.

Microsoft, with its vast customer data, has been studying how people work and collaborate. What the research says: There are ways to meet less often and still feel engaged and informed.

Let’s commit to making 2021 the year of working smarter, with more intentional meetings. Here’s how you & your team can make it happen:

Tip #1: Ask yourself, is a meeting necessary to get this work done?

If it seems like you’re in more meetings than ever, that’s because you are. According to a Microsoft study of Microsoft Teams activity, between February and August 2020 there was a 55% increase in the number of calls per week. As a result of the shift to remote work due to COVID-19, more meetings were added in an attempt to keep teams connected, but ultimately, this shift was unsustainable.

What’s become abundantly clear for many working from home for the past year: work doesn’t always hinge on a meeting. Collaboration can be accomplished without the need for a video call. Sharing documents for collaboration, communication via chat, utilizing planners and workflow modules, and more can allow for more fluid and ongoing collaboration – and can free up time for the real work to get done.

The best way to let go of attachment to meetings? Encourage your teams to keep asking the question, “Do we have to have this meeting?” Consistently ask yourself if there are other avenues that can move a project forward.

Tip #2: Be intentional about time

If you’ve found yourself distracted and unfocused during a long meeting, you’re not alone. Research from Microsoft’s Human Factors Labs suggests that after 30-40 minutes of concentration, fatigue starts to set in.

When possible, try to cap meetings at 25 or 50 minutes, so people have time to have a break or stretch their legs between meetings. In some calendars, like Outlook, you can set this as a default. If a long meeting is necessary, plan in spots for 5-minute breaks. Give yourself & others a chance to recharge!

Tip #3: Trade large meetings for a more meaningful one-on-one

In a Microsoft Harris Poll of people in six different countries, almost 60% of those surveyed feel less connected to their colleagues since transitioning to remote work. That may seem counter-intuitive given the increase in virtual meetings, but what virtual meetings don’t guarantee is a chance for information interactions and connecting with your colleagues.

Light-hearted office chatter creates trust and goodwill and builds a sense of connection. That sense of connection, according to Microsoft Senior Research Economist Sonia Jaffe, is associated with a range of benefits, including job satisfaction and better overall health.

So instead of cutting right to the chase, allow for a few minutes of genuine connection when you meet one-on-one with your teams. At Green Key Resources, we’ve found that a few minutes of chatter rarely take away from the overall productivity of a meeting and has allowed our teams to feel connected, despite not being in our offices together for the last year.

Find opportunities to check in with the people you collaborate with outside of a typical meeting. And don’t forget to reach out to the new employees who were onboarded virtually and haven’t yet experienced your company’s watercooler chatter. Bring your new hires into the fold now so when you’re all back in the office – or in a hybrid work structure – they already feel like part of the team.

Tip #4: Set boundaries

It can be tempting to accept meetings after hours or skip a lunch break when you no longer have a separation between office and home. However, boundaries are essential in this era of meeting and chat overload. Set hard stops – and stick to them – when it comes to meetings, work hours, and the work itself.

Want more help with creating a culture of intentional meetings? Download Microsoft’s Intentional Meetings Checklist to help train your people, and yourself, how to form a better virtual meeting culture.

Photo by Chris Montgomery on Unsplash

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Green Key

Working Virtually Causes Greater Fatigue, but it Also Provides More Flexibility

Feeling like video conferences are taking more out of you than in-person meetings? Turns out you’re right. According to a new set of studies released by Microsoft, virtual meetings cause more stress and fatigue than similar in-person meetings. Microsoft began their studies prior to Covid-19 as a way of analyzing the effects of their own video conferencing software (Microsoft Teams), but the results have become particularly relevant in the current working climate.

According to Microsoft’s research, the extra stress caused by video meetings comes from several different factors including having to focus continuously on a screen and reduced non-verbal cues that would usually help you ‘read the room’ in an in-person meeting. These stressors are specific to virtual meetings and would not otherwise be felt in in-person meetings. On days with back to back virtual meetings, stress and fatigue usually set in about 2 hours into the workday.

Thankfully, for those using Teams, Microsoft is nothing if not solution-oriented. To help combat the extra stress of meeting virtually on their platform, they have released a set of updates that helps users feel more like they are together in the same space.  The two main updates are ‘Together mode’ and ‘Dynamic view’. Together mode uses AI to place meeting participants within the same shared background while Dynamic view is meant to optimize shared content within the virtual meeting space. Also, for those not using Teams, Microsoft offers the general advice to take breaks every two hours and try to limit virtual meetings to about 30 minutes when possible.

Aside from the Microsoft specific efforts to combat virtual meeting fatigue, there are also other bright spots contained within the research for virtual workers overall. While several of Microsoft’s studies began prior to Covid-19, others were specifically designed to study what is happening to the workforce during the pandemic. What they found was that, while most people wanted to get back into the office eventually, people also expected their managers/company to allow them to more frequently work from home.

This same set of studies also found that people were able to have a more flexible workday working from home. Employees were able to work on projects when needed but were also able to take care of personal matters during times when they would normally be in the office. According to Microsoft, “…people are working more frequently in the morning and evening hours, but also on the weekends” suggesting that they are taking (at least part of) the middle of the day for non-work-related activities. With this newfound freedom in office hours, it appears that employees are still able to get required work completed on time but on a schedule that better fits their needs.

Overall, the results of Microsoft’s studies, both pre and during Covid-19, appear to point to the same conclusion: the nature of office work is in the middle of a metamorphosis that has now been accelerated by the pandemic. Over the last ten years, more and more companies have touted their flexible work from home policies as an extra perk, but post-pandemic it’s looking more likely that employees will expect most companies to have more accommodating work from home policies in general.

Photo by ThisisEngineering RAEng on Unsplash

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Green Key