Prioritizing care for the whole person in the workplace
Welcome to the “people first” movement
At the start of this year, you may have noticed an uptick in social media posts, advertisements, articles, and conferences communicating the importance of well-being, equality, social responsibility, and environmental sustainability. What you’re seeing is a shift in the collective corporate mindset. A shift born of the realization that true corporate prosperity is contingent upon prioritizing the needs of employees as humans first.
We all share the desire to become better versions of ourselves – both personally and professionally. We share the need to connect with others in a meaningful way – whether it’s with coworkers or external stakeholders. And, we all want a sense of purpose – in our work and in our workplace. Corporate leadership teams that recognize these common goals and proactively implement measures to support them are ahead of the curve.
Closing the gap between a vision and the employee’s actual experience
In hopes to make this aspirational vision our day-to-day reality at The Spur Group, our People team and Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Advisory Council work with six Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) focused on diversity & inclusion, social impact, professional development, and well-being. Our ERGs serve as a differentiator from other organizations and are a prime reason why Spur is a great place to work.
The Employee Well-being ERG started in the beginning of 2019 with the purpose of ingraining care for the entire person into the fabric of the organization. We believe that prioritizing the wellbeing of our employees in this way enables them to thrive as both people and professionals.
As the leader of the Well-being ERG, it has been important to me to take a different approach to wellness. One that takes a step back to look at all elements of personal wellness and evaluates how the work itself impacts the worker. One of our most successful contributions to the organization has been our “wellness check-ins”.
A tool to prompt brief and insightful responses
In an effort to practice what we preach as an ERG, I first started wellness check-ins within our weekly internal team meetings. We began each meeting with a stretch, light exercise, or short meditation before reflecting on how we were doing with some guided questions and visuals. These check-ins provided a safe space and an opportunity for peers to be open with each other in an intentional and authentic way. I immediately began hearing from team members how appreciated and valued those 15 minutes of reflecting and hearing from peers were in their otherwise busy days. The time also made me a better leader as I learned how to best support individuals and delegate tasks more equitably among the team.
Based on our internal experience, the well-being team recommended integrating check-ins across the organization in monthly team meetings and various project groups. Our firm’s senior leadership team was supportive of the recommendation, and check-ins are now an organization-wide norm.
This small, but meaningful shift in our standard rhythms has signaled to our people that their needs are just as important as our clients'. Check-ins have proven an exceptionally useful tool in recent weeks, too. As all employees have started working remotely in response to the COVID crisis, many teams have leveraged them as an opportunity to stay connected and do a “temperature check” every week.
Start wellness check-ins at your organization with three steps
For those interested in implementing wellness check-ins, here are our best practices:
1. Make the time for it.
People are your business’ priority. For existing meetings with 4-12 expected attendees, block out 15-20 minutes in the agenda for everyone to reflect on how they are doing and hear from other.
2. Establish expectations.
Cover the purpose of the time and what it means for attendees to participate within the meeting invite and at the start of the meeting. In 2019, 30+ well-being programs started with a collective agreement of what being “present” in our programs meant.
This step is crucial as it ensures everyone understands that:
- Attendees are encouraged, but not required, to share when they feel called, leaving space for others to share.
- Attendees should listen respectfully and actively, avoiding interruption and seeking to understand each speaker.
- After the check-in, attendees should feel free to share their own experience, recognizing that the privacy of others should be respected.
3. Start facilitating.
Have individuals select a single question from the five options in the wellness check-in deck (available free at the end of this blog). The questions are ordered from low to high levels of disclosure and are intended to offer a variety of choices based on what the individual is comfortable sharing.
Act on your intentions to put your people first
Pilot your own wellness check-ins and empower employees to share their recommendations on how to create a better culture of care. Speaking from our experience, we recognize that the shift can seem risky – vulnerability hasn’t been viewed as a strength in the past. These small changes create positive ripples of influence inside your organization – something that employees will feel. Beyond the gut feeling, organizations can measure success with organizational psychology metrics (e.g. employee engagement, sense of belonging, social capital, etc.).
Whatever you choose, welcome to the people first movement.