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Can You Unlock the “Secret Weapon” to Worker Wellbeing During COVID-19?

Interview with Mandy O'Neill

iStock:ThitareeSarmkasat
iStock:ThitareeSarmkasat

As the requirements of caring for workers’ wellbeing, in response to COVID-19, begin to create significant costs, a new study suggests that most workplaces continue to overlook the most affordable and effective solution every organization has available to them.  What are workplaces missing?

The study conducted by The Wellbeing Lab and George Mason University’s Center for the Advancement of Well-Being of 1,000 workers, representative of the US workforce, found that when managers regularly expressed care, compassion, and appreciation, their workers’ were significantly more likely to report higher levels of wellbeing and performance.  These workers were also three times more likely to report that they trusted management to make sensible decisions about issues that affect their future, and this had a significant impact on how positive workers felt about returning to their work premises.

“The more leaders express caring, compassion, and appreciation, the more engaged and productive workers are, and the lower their anxiety levels are likely to be,” explained Associate Professor Mandy O’Neill from the George Mason University’s Center for the Advancement of Well-Being during our recent interview about the research findings.  “This ‘secret weapon’ doesn’t cost organizations money and is as important or potentially more important than other wellbeing benefits many workplaces offer, particularly during these uncertain and challenging times.”

Unfortunately, the data also suggested that only one in every ten leaders do this regularly for their people.  So, what can leaders do to regularly express care, compassion, and appreciation for their workers? 

Here are Mandy’s suggestions:

  • Create opportunities to laugh and play together.  Share a silly video, a favorite tune, a funny story, a marvelous meme, an amusing gif, a witty joke, or a quirky dress-up theme for video meetings.  Studies show that shared laughter offers a powerful way for us to get in sync with others, as it can foster trust and connections.   
  • Make it safe to ask for help.  Encourage a giving culture in your team to ensure people have the resources they need to stay on top of their work and build connection, warmth, and trust in your team’s relationships.  Model how to ask for help by making a daily SMART request: Specific, Meaningful, Actionable, Realistic, and Timed. 
  • Celebrate the positive difference your people make.  Each week, ask for one piece of feedback from someone your team’s work has helped; it could be an email, short video, or even a five-minute pop-in to your team meeting.  Thanking your team for the difference they are making boosts commitment and job satisfaction.
  • Encourage learning.  At the end of the week, ask your team to share.  What went well? Where did they struggle?  What did they learn?  How will they apply this next week?  Not only will this help your team more openly discuss their challenges and setbacks, it will also help you have the compassion to learn and grow together.  
  • Reach out and connect.  Take the initiative to schedule a call, send a text, or start a conversation.  And then, when you return to your workplace, use that extra effort to keep reaching out and connecting with others in ways that are more than just sending an email or text.  For example, leaving someone a handwritten note can be really powerful, even if it’s just a post-it note to say, “Hey, thinking about you,” or “Hope you have a great day.”

What can you do to express care, compassion, and appreciation with the people you work with today? 

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