Since 2013, the United Nations has recognized March 20 as the International Day of Happiness, recognizing happiness and well-being as universal goals and aspirations.
The International Day of Happiness, though, looks a little different during a pandemic. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has even issued guidelines about how public health measures, such as social distancing, can affect our mental and physical health. As you can expect, the stress has bled into our work lives. A recent study in the Netherlands found that there has been a stark difference between managers’ and employees’ stress and dissatisfaction levels during COVID, with employees feeling much more stressed and unhappy.
Ahead of the holiday, we at Society Insurance have developed tips for employers to create a happier workplace,whether virtual, in person, or both.
Implement a ‘No Meeting Policy’
We recommend allowing at least 1 hour per day, at the same time every day, during which no meetings are scheduled. This time block on employees’ calendars gives them time for themselves or to complete tasks without interruptions. For example, at Society Insurance, we discourage employees from scheduling meetings between noon and 1 p.m. This allows time for employees to eat lunch, take a break, exercise, catch up on e-mails, or get outside.
Conduct a Stress Assessment
Be proactive and conduct a stress assessment to see how your employees are doing. We recommend StressAssess. This free, evidence-based online survey tool is designed to assist workplaces in identifying psychosocial hazards that can lead to stress and mental injury, providing suggestions and pathways to address them and thus preventing harm. It is simple to use and fosters a team approach.
Recognize When Employees Make Progress
Take time to pause and recognize employee milestones, challenges that have been overcome, and goals that have been met or exceeded.
Consider Allowing a Flexible Work Schedule
Sometimes it’s not the work that is stressful—it’s the other parts of your life that make starting work more difficult, such as a long commute or caring for children or elderly parents. Allowing employees to modify their traditional work schedule can make a world of difference in their well-being. Additionally, not everyone is productive during the same times of day. Some people prefer to work 7 a.m. to 3 p.m., while others do better with a 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. work schedule.
At Society, we’ve had success allowing some employees to work their normal hours in 4 days, thus providing them with a regular 3-day weekend. Not only can this decrease employee stress, but it also allows them to work the hours when they’re most productive.
Teach Managers How to Recognize Signs of Burnout
According to Mayo Clinic, employee burnout can have significant consequences, including heart disease, alcohol or substance misuse, high blood pressure, vulnerability to illnesses, insomnia, and more. Unsurprisingly, 77% of full-time U.S. professionals experience burnout at their current job, according to Deloitte.
Teach managers to be on the lookout if their employees are:
- Impatient or irritable with other coworkers.
- More sensitive than usual. If an employee who has been open to constructive criticism in the past is now combative when confronted about his or her performance, this employee could be experiencing burnout. Take note of whether the employee becomes emotional or pushes back when feedback is provided to him or her.
- Missing work more frequently. An employee who has an uptick of absences may be experiencing burnout. He or she may be finding that it’s hard to get out of bed or may be ill due to high stress affecting the body.
- Exhibiting signs of exhaustion.
- Making more mistakes. Detail-oriented employees who are experiencing burnout may start making mistakes on projects.
More Importantly, Teach Managers How to Prevent Burnout
In 2019, the World Health Organization declared burnout an occupational phenomenon. To combat this, the best offense is a good defense. Here are three tips to help prevent employee burnout:
- Equip those in charge to understand employee workload. Weekly or biweekly check-ins with employees will help managers remain up to date on what their direct reports are working on.
- Make well-being part of your culture. Encourage exercise, work/life balance, and paid-time-off (PTO) usage, and discourage excessively long hours or putting work ahead of family.
- Talk about it. Incorporate burnout-related conversations into meetings and gatherings. Provide tools to address burnout, such as helpful webinars, or bring in speakers for a “lunch and learn.”
Creating happier employees pays off. The Happiness Project author Gretchen Rubin shared that happy employees are critical to a company’s success, are more creative and productive, and are better leaders and team players.
In a year when the traditional workplace structure was uprooted entirely, it has never been more important for employers to do what they can to ensure employees are appreciated, taken care of, and respected. When International Day of Happiness rolls around on March 20, let’s find positive ways to look after ourselves, our loved ones, and our employees.
Becca Freiberg is a Human Resources Generalist at Society Insurance. She has worked in Human Resources for 6 years and has experience in benefits, wellness, recruitment, employee engagement, and development. Freiberg joined Society Insurance in 2019.