Are You Supporting Your Team’s Well Being?
Post by: Arianna Campbell, Director
In early 2020, before the arrival of COVID-19 in the U.S., nearly 7 million people (3.4% of the population) were working remotely. Now, as we’re more than halfway through the year, that number has grown by leaps and bounds. It’s an acceleration of a trend that was already happening, and remote work is here to stay for many professionals and firms.
According to Accounting Today, 88% of firms with 50 or more full-time employees are planning to allow people to work from home permanently. But now that we’re settling into the “new normal” of remote work, many firms realize they need to adapt their processes for their new way of working.
Process is a top challenge
When offices closed and firms sent their employees to work from home last March, we noticed a trend. There was a lot of emphasis on checking in with people, asking how they were doing, and checking how people were juggling workloads, pandemic fears, family responsibilities and more.
To some extent, that focus on employees’ well being subsided as people settled into the routine of working from home or headed back to the office on a full- or part-time basis. But now is not the time for leaders to assume people are doing well. In fact, we should be even more concerned. Our team members have been enduring a different life for a while – with aspects of work and life that they perhaps feel like they didn’t sign up for.
Mental health matters
In March, crisis management was the name of the game. Firm leaders wanted to protect their teams while ensure they had the communication, technology, and support to work remotely. But crisis management looks a lot different from sustaining those efforts for the long haul.
A recent survey of 1,000 U.S. employees who have been working from home since March found that:
4 out of 5 employees said they find it challenging to “shut off” from work in the evenings
Over half of employees have not taken a “mental health day” since they started working from home due to the pandemic
44% of employees have not taken a single day of vacation since they started working from home
Over 50% of said their sleep patterns have been negatively impacted due to the social effects of COVID-19
39% reported feeling less healthy physically, and 45% said they feel less healthy mentally since working from home
80% said they would consider quitting their current position for a job that focused more on employee mental health
Supporting your team’s well being
So how can leaders ensure that they’re helping their teams during these unusual times?
1. Understand every experience is different
First, there’s no one-size-fits-all plan for supporting employees. Every person’s experience is unique. Some might be thriving working remotely, while others never wanted to be virtual and miss being in the office with their coworkers. Some people have different dispositions and personality traits that enable them to adjust quickly to remote work. Others might need to put in more effort.
The trouble is, it might not always be easy to tell who is struggling and who is thriving. Some of your most productive employees might have difficulty separating life and work, working ‘round the clock without downtime, which will ultimately lead to burnout.
One firm leader I spoke to recently told me they’d discovered an employee was working late into the night because she didn’t want her coworkers and managers to know she also had to homeschool her children. Her team would have supported her if they’d known her school plans changed.
Don’t simply assume that if you haven’t heard from someone, everything is ok. Check on people regularly and make that connection. Your support needs to be individualized, so ask people what they need.
2. Monitor performance
Your team members’ well-being affects their productivity at work, so watching out for changes can help you offer proactive support when people need it.
Review billable hours, realization, workload, and whether people are taking vacation days. Remember, these aren’t normal times. If someone isn’t meeting their goals, leaders need to find out why they’re struggling and look for ways to support them. Create a safe, non-judgmental culture in which people can speak openly about what they’re going through – personally and professionally – and ask for support when they need it. Also, do not assume that high performers are not experiencing stress. Be sure to have regular check-ins that include appropriate questions about well being.
3. Model transparency and flexibility
A leader’s actions have a huge impact on employee behavior. No matter how much to tell people that their families come first, talk about mental health, or encourage them to take time off, if you’re not walking the walk, your people won’t feel like they can either.
Take vacation days. Schedule a lunch break on your shared calendar. Let people know when you’re getting groceries or picking up your kids from school. Resist the temptation to send emails late at night and on weekends. Setting an example is one of the clearest ways to send a message to your team that work/life balance and flexibility matters.
Whether your offices are reopening or your team will continue to work remotely for the foreseeable future, we need to continue focusing on the human aspect. Don’t become so focused on work that you aren’t tuning in to people and what they need. By emphasizing people rather than just productivity, we can set our teams and our firms up for success for the rest of 2020 and beyond.
Do you want the tools and accountability to start from where you are now and get where you want to be?
Interested in connecting with other talent professionals in the Accounting profession? That’s why we developed the Boomer Talent Circle – to help firms get the support they need to become better HR and talent leaders and turn their firms into an employer of choice. Schedule a discovery call with one of our Solutions Advisors and get on the path to joining a peer group with other top talent professionals.
As a director for Boomer Consulting, Inc., Arianna Campbell helps accounting firms challenge the status quo by leading process improvement initiatives that result in increased profitability and client satisfaction. She also facilitates the development and cultivation of future firm leaders in The P3 Leadership Academy™ Academy. Internally, she blends concepts from Lean Six Sigma and leadership development to drive innovation and continuous improvement within the company. Arianna also enjoys the opportunity to share knowledge through regular contributions to the Boomer Bulletin and other industry-wide publications, as well as public speaking at industry conferences.