12 Ways to Nurture Mental Health and Company Culture During the Pandemic
So far, this year has been intense—to put it mildly.
For Liongard as a company, it’s also been intense as we continue to scale at a rapid pace. That’s why Josh Tabin, Liongard’s Chief Financial Officer, reached out to me in January about joining the team. He didn’t want Liongard’s company culture—so carefully cultivated and embraced by all—to become diluted as both the team and the scope of work grew.
In my 20+ years in “human resources” (note: not my favorite term), I’d seen how a floundering company culture can lead directly to disengagement, ending with high employee turnover, low productivity and general dissatisfaction. So, I knew where Josh was coming from; and I decided to come aboard to help make sure that never happened with Liongard.
Then, in March, COVID-19 hit. (And in a very real way for me, as I came down with the virus that month and am just getting back to feeling 100%, five months later.) One day, we were all bonding over team lunches and getting excited about the office’s new meditation room; the next, we were homebound, working remotely and isolated from each other. The “new normal.”
The Effects of Remote Working on Our Daily Lives
Microsoft recently released some eye-opening information on just how the shift to remote working has affected its own employees:
- Workdays lengthened by 4 hours, often because employees needed to step away for family/personal issues
- Weekly meeting times increased by 10%
- Many employees caught up on work at night
- Time in front of screens increased, with more instant messages sent during lunch and in the evenings
- Virtual social meetings increased 10%, and scheduled one-on-ones went up 18%
That last one is really important. As Microsoft puts it, “People would sooner add meetings to their schedules than lose connections.”
If there’s anything that will strengthen companies during the pandemic, it’s communication. People want to stay connected; it’s paramount to our mental health. But when thrown into chaos, communication is often the first thing to go. During this time, it takes leadership and the willingness to put in the effort to maintain communication—in whatever form you can.
At Liongard, we’ve been coming up with a variety of ways for our people to stay connected, engaged and eager to log in for work every morning. Check out a few of our recent ideas:
1. Get creative. Once you open your mind to communicating, bonding and engaging over Slack or other technology, the possibilities to do so are endless. At Liongard, we’ve had informal book clubs start in Slack channels, a “Ladies Lunch” over Zoom, and a group yoga class using YouTube videos.
2. Work hard, play hard. To keep things fun, we nominated a team member to take on the role of Game Master. Every day, he posts fun challenges to Slack for employees to take part in. So far, we’ve been challenged to share a photo of the funniest thing on our desks, go on a virtual scavenger hunt in our homes, solve seemingly impossible mind-benders and more.
3. Embrace new employees. (Well, not literally, right now.) It’s tough to start a new job without an in-person onboarding experience. Take it all online and make sure that everyone makes the effort to welcome new team members, make introductions and helps them find their way. You want to pull them into the nucleus of your culture, not have them orbiting around it.
4. Be generous. When our team got sent home in mid-March, Liongard picked up the bill for our high-speed internet, and also paid for any needed office furniture to make sure we were comfortable and productive in our new spaces. Gestures like this, especially in times of chaos, keep spirits up when they can so easily falter.
5. Celebrate wins together. We use our Slack channels to share positive company news and milestones, which brings us closer and keeps us focused on moving forward as a group.
6. Make ‘em laugh. Humor truly is healing, and we could all use some healing right now. When we’re not discussing company matters, we like to keep things lighthearted and fun. Example: Liongard’s founders, Joe and Vincent, recently held a virtual dad-joke-telling contest that left our team in stitches.
7. Don’t forget about birthdays. Just because you can’t get together over cake doesn’t mean you have to stop celebrating birthdays. Any acknowledgement or special consideration goes a long way in buoying morale.
8. Dine together, apart. One of my favorite things to do during this period of remote working is to have a virtual coffee or lunch with a teammate. It’s a great way to de-stress, get perspective and do a mental-health check-in with a colleague.
9. Make it a win-win. We implemented a Liongard Learning Challenge every Wednesday, where team members compete to find answers we’ve hidden in our very own product. It’s a fun, friendly competition, but we also get to dive deep into the software and learn new features.
10. Be flexible with PTO. Everyone (yes, everyone!) needs a vacation from work—even if it’s just a staycation this year. Recognize that the pandemic has affected your employees far beyond their work life, and give them the time they need to breath, relax and recharge without work obligations hanging over them.
11. Empathize. When someone on our team doesn’t feel well, it’s not considered an inconvenience—it’s just life, and it’s out of our control. What we can control is how we reach out to offer help and support without rushing our teammate back before they’re ready.
12. Draw the line. Yes, we make Liongard a fun place to work, even during a pandemic—but we also recognize the need for work-life balance. When it’s time to sign off for the day, we want people to truly exit work-mode and enjoy their personal time. It’s incredibly important to respect that importance, which helps preserve mental health as well as engagement levels.
These are just a few of the ways we’re keeping our company culture alive and our wits about us during this challenging time. The point is not really what you do, it’s just that you do it regularly, enthusiastically and genuinely.
Resources for a Balanced Life
If you’re looking for ways to support your employees’ wellbeing (and your own), check out some of my favorite resources:
- The One You Feed podcast: Practical wisdom for a better life
- Calm app: A popular app for meditation and sleep
- Project Happiness website: Resources to create happiness within yourself and the world
- Blinkist: Keep your mind nimble with 15-minute-or-less summaries of bestselling nonfiction
- The Tapping Solution app: Release stress and anxiety with tapping meditation