5 Ways to Support Your Employees Through the “New Normal”

Caitlin Weiser, aPHR
April 6, 2022

The beginning of the pandemic sent our employees into lockdown where we turned into bread bakers, reality TV bingers, and full-time remote workers. What began as two weeks quickly turned into two years and employers had to adjust to this new way of living and working. While our home office setups grew and “you’re on mute” echoed around the world, we began to realize the ways of working would never go back to how they were before the COVID-19 pandemic. The reality is, this is our new normal. Our workforces exist in a post-pandemic world, where our employees are spread out, working from home, and need support from their leaders to be successful, now more than ever.

1. Create a Culture Where Check-ins Are Normal

An email notification pops up in your inbox; “time for your annual review.” Cue the automatic panic. Have you ever wondered why annual reviews or unexpected one on ones can cause so much stress and anxiety? It’s because they’re exactly that, unexpected.

When feedback is given randomly, or the focus is solely on performance improvements, it can create fear around impromptu meetings with a manager. Employees begin to associate the act with negativity. Employees shouldn’t think that their manager wanting to meet with them is always a cause of concern., Employees should feel comfortable and confident going into one on one meetings with their managers.

The first step in creating a culture where employees feel valued and heard is making check-ins a regular occurrence. This is done by scheduling consistent one-on-one meetings or impromptu check-ins with their employees throughout the week, even if it’s a quick (figurative) temperature check or just to chat about the employee’s day. 

It is also important managers are providing job related feedback while also getting curious about their employee’s well-being and mental health. Many times, poor performance can be a result of outside factors. Managers should create an environment of support by listening and sharing resources to help the employee excel, regardless of the personal factors influencing how they show up at work.

2. Effectively Communicate Resources Available to Employees

What types of resources does your organization offer to its employees? Whether you have an Employee Assistance Program, virtual counseling through your benefits provider, or flexible mental health days, it is important to make sure these benefits are being communicated to all new and current employees.

Communicating mental health resources as part of the onboarding process can start new employees off on the right foot by demonstrating your company’s ongoing support for their well-being. If this hasn’t been done in the past, you can host a virtual or in-person meeting to go over these resources and share where employees can access them. Creating a place for these resources to live, such as an online drive, makes it easy for employees to access at their own discretion. It is essential to let managers know that when it comes to supporting employees’ mental health, there is no such thing as over-communication of resources.

3. Modify Expectations for Employees Based on New Work Environment

Since the shift to remote work began, people have had to adjust to align with their new environment, all while dealing with the stress of a global pandemic. Normal routines that were easily managed in office settings are no longer relevant which can make employees feel lost and unsure of who to contact when issues arise.

Research shows that employees are now ranking work-life balance and mental health higher on the list when deciding whether to stay at their current job or start searching for something new. If employers want to keep their people long term, it is imperative that managers modify expectations for employees based on how the work environment continues to change.

There is also the never-ending debate on returning to the office or continuing to work from home which doesn’t necessarily have a clear answer across the board. This is where communication between business leaders, managers, and employees comes into play. Administering pulse checks with employees can gather insightful feedback on preferences about work location while ensuring managers are checking in with their direct reports regularly.  This also promotes engagement and encourages feedback loops about employees’ preferred working styles. As you decide on a go forward plan as a business, expectations should be clearly communicated.  

4. Address the Challenges That May Arise Due to a Hybrid or Virtual Work Environment

It is no surprise that being able to see signs of employee burnout is harder to spot when not working alongside one another. When working remotely, it is crucial that communication across all levels is a priority. Supporting employees virtually can be done by scheduling regular video meetings, being available to contact through messaging, and having a clear onboarding plan. Allowing employees the autonomy to complete their work from home without micromanaging is important for building trust and creating a connected, positive remote work environment. 

Maintaining company culture is tricky when you have a combination of hybrid and fully remote teams. We are far beyond the early days of virtual happy hours so getting creative in culture building is a must. Many companies have various non-work-related communication channels pertaining to different interests. Encouraging employees to create their own message channels can allow for organic relationship building between virtual teams. Setting up new employees with a virtual team lunch on their first day can allow them to feel included and less alone while working from home. The possibilities for creating a unique virtual workplace culture are endless and concluding what is right for your organization depends on collaboration and insight from employees.

5. Implement an Ongoing Performance Management Process

Effective performance management is ongoing and happens throughout the year. If you are doing performance reviews sparingly and are not seeing results, or losing employees before their next review, it is probably because there is too much time between performance feedback conversations. Without ongoing feedback, employees may feel lost or disengaged and may not be able to connect their work to the growth of the business.

Collaboration and accountability play a huge part in performance improvement and employee engagement. If you want to drive business results and maintain your workforce, managers need to consistently engage with their direct reports and celebrate their contributions to the organization. If thinking about making a change to your performance management structure seems daunting, you’re not alone. Red Clover can help with setting up an effective performance management process and skilling up leaders on best practices to support your employee’s mental health as they continue to navigate this new normal. Reach out to us if you are looking to improve your employee engagement and increase employee retention through implementing a new performance management program.

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A 70 headcount pharmaceutical technology firm needed support in company culture alignment and integrating company core values in business interactions internally and with external customers. As a leader in medical software, there was also a need to guarantee legal and regulatory compliance in every aspect of the business, especially as it scaled to serve an expanding customer base.

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