There’s no doubt that most of the past two years have been tough, especially for project based organizations. First, employees had to deal with Covid-19 cases, the economic downfall and recovery, and accelerated transition into remote work. This was coupled with tight project deadlines, resource crunch, scope change and other uncertainties. All of these factors have bred anxiety which has taken a severe toll on employee mental health. Realizing this, many project leaders are focusing on employee wellness and exploring ways to create happy, healthy, and engaged employees.
To help employees prioritize their mental health and meet their project goals, managers use tools to monitor team activities. This helps them ensure that their team members are taking enough breaks to recharge. To help managers like you better support your employees, we reached out to various experts to share their thoughts.
Create an Inclusive Community that Promotes Employee Wellbeing
Employees continue to work in completely remote or hybrid environments. So, leaders need to create a work atmosphere that fosters a safe space where people can freely discuss their concerns. Organizations can’t build employee wellness in a day or two. Instead, it’s created by providing constant support at every step.
Logan Mallory, Vice President at Motivosity, shares his thoughts on how to put employee mental wellness first: “Mental wellness is directly connected with our sense of belonging and inclusion. When we are or feel alone, it can impact almost every element of our health. A sense of community and inclusion is a key part of being happy at work.” Logan suggests organizations that already have a positive working culture for employee wellbeing, consider the next layer of community engagement. For instance, this could be a program where peers and mentors meet regularly to share knowledge and train one another. The sense of support builds confidence to tackle bigger problems and achieve goals more effectively.
Provide Better Support
During the pandemic and recovery stage, almost everyone experienced some level of mental discomfort. Providing employees with the right support system helps to ease employee anxiety. Magda Klimkiewicz, HR Business Partner at Zety, explains, “One of the first things we did to boost employees’ mental health was to rethink the perks we offered and provide our people with something that better suited the times we live in. Rather than sticking to traditional workplace perks such as free snacks and disused ping-pong tables, we provided free online counseling sessions, weekly yoga classes and purchased mindfulness apps to help employees relieve stress and generally recharge their mental batteries. On top of that, we ran a series of workshops early on with managers to help them be better leaders amid the prolonged WFH.”
Providing managers with the proper training helps them identify specific needs of their team members to succeed. Training helps them tell who is introverted vs. extroverted, and who needs more emotional support and guidance. Understanding team members’ personalities, priorities, and motivations help to deal with challenges more effectively and enhance employee wellness. Providing the proper support also includes equipping employees with the right tools for time tracking and project management.
Check on Your Employee Wellness Regularly
Let’s face it – work from home burnout is real. Various studies have shown that employees are facing increased pressure while working from home. In fact, in one survey, 69% of employees confessed that they are experiencing burnout symptoms while working from home. Therefore, regular check-ins that go beyond customary “How are you doing” can go a long way.
Nick Swekosky, founder of SuperTeam, shares some actionable tips on organizations can check on their employee’s mental health:
- Establish organization-wide standards for management to consider when establishing the schedule, scope, and budget for future projects.
- Complete employee engagement surveys regularly to understand how they feel about how they work.
- Evaluate employee engagement in the most common web tools they use to understand if their work habits correlate with a healthy work schedule.
Follow these tips to identify and solve work habits that correlate with an unhealthy work schedule and improve employee wellbeing. Having mentally well employees will boost your organization’s overall performance and reduce the company’s employee churn rate. Understand how your employees spend their work hours is a good starting point. Analyze patterns such as the busiest work days, projects that are consuming most of their hours, common productivity drainers, etc. An in-depth analysis of employee time data helps business leaders establish work standards for project managers to consider when planning the project scope, schedule, and budget. Nick recommends managers send out surveys at the end of each project to understand how the cadence for the project’s schedule affected the employee morale with respect to scope of work.
Provide Employee Wellness Time Off
For US employees, the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) offers protection to cope with health issues for self and family. The protection extends to including mental health leaves to recover from anxiety, stress, or depression. Stay on top of regional and national labour laws to ensure that your employees get their benefits.
Sue Hirst, the Director of CFO On-Call, agrees and shares her views “Mentally healthy employees will be more productive and less likely to get sick. Organizations need to have policies in place that let their employees take time off for mental health days. They can set up mental wellness breaks, offer anxiety screenings, provide counselling, and promote stress resilience workshops. This way, the employees will be content, and projects can still get done.”
Spread the Workload to Improve Wellness
Overworked employees are at a higher risk of mental stress. Pareen Sehat, a registered clinical counsellor & certified mental health professional at Well Beings Counselling says “If you want to help your employees improve their mental health while maintaining the pace of your project, you should efficiently divide workloads and responsibilities among your resources. Even if one team member leaves for their mental health day, the rest of the team should be capable of picking up their work and not compromise on their own.”
With tight project deadlines, scope creeps, and resource crunches can easily overwhelm employees. Pareen shares some advice to keep employee spirit high, “One of the best ways to raise employee morale when you’re in a project-based industry is to get constant employee feedback. Project management can be very overwhelming, and even one team member feeling down can bring the morale of the whole team low. So collect feedback at the end of every day from your project team and listen to them vent out any frustrations they may have. This will improve their mood for the next day.”
Keeping projects on track while ensuring a work environment that puts employee wellness first is critical to the success of any project-based organization. Be it for completing projects successfully or attracting and retaining the top talent, mental health support plays a critical role. If you’re looking for tools to support your remote and hybrid workforce, then start with accurate time tracking.