The health of my team IS the health of my business.
Since the outbreak of the pandemic:
75% of people say they feel more socially isolated
67% of people report higher stress
57% are feeling greater anxiety
53% say they feel more emotionally exhausted
(according to a global study of over 2,700 employees across more than 10 industries undertaken by Qualtrics and SAP during March and April 2020.)
We – collectively – are not okay. And as leaders, it’s our job to care for the physical, financial and mental health of our teams.
Physical safety was an easy one for us. We have been running a remote company for almost 9 years, so it was as simple as upgrading our Zoom account and insisting that all meetings are virtual until further notice. We did this on March 12 - We were early-ish adopters in the Stay Well at Home order which was officially implemented in Ventura County on March 19. Some people definitely thought we were going too far.
Proactively protecting the physical health of my team was for very practical reasons – if they are sick then they can’t work. And if they can’t work, we can’t make money. Easy Peasy. Step One: protect the thing that makes you money. Thank you for attending my TED Talk on how to run a business. :)
Our second charge was to care for the financial health of our team. We crunched the numbers and discussed them as a team. We were realistic and honest. YES you still have a job and we’re fighting like hell to keep it that way. NO we aren’t sure for how long, so let’s walk through the unemployment programs available. We beefed up our sick time policy, shared our pivot strategy and made sure everyone understood their role. We were equal parts collected and frantic … like swans – graceful up top and kicking like hell down below.
Our final and most important task was to look after the mental health of our team. Our company culture is pretty touchy-feely. We often say to each other, “I’ll get back to you on that. I need to feel my feelings.” We already laid the groundwork to prioritize mental and emotional health, but we took great care in doubling down in our efforts.
Before COVID, we regularly monitored ‘Happiness Indicators’ within our team – the things that reveal if we are maintaining work/life balance. Mine were the number of times I worked out, if my back was hurting, how many hours I worked over the weekend and how often I took Scooter to the beach.
We ramped up the emotional check-ins as soon as we stopped attending meetings in person. It’s been 70 days. Breanne needs to play music. Cecily needs to take her dogs to the river. Kristiana needs to drink 20oz of water every day. Llewellyn needs to remember to be grateful – HER WORDS, not mine!!
After about 4 weeks, we realized that each member of our team was needing to take about one unexpected day off every two weeks, and we were only able to work, on average, about 6 hours a day. And then we started encouraging it. Across our team, the stress is manifesting in physical issues that are too debilitating for them to be productive. For Breanne, it’s migraines. My back goes out and I’m in bed for the weekend.
We even brought in Give an Hour to lead an emotional check in. Cecily is sad that she had to cancel a trip to England with her Mom and Grandmother. Breanne is glad she gets to hug her boyfriend. Kristiana cancelled her quarterly dinner party with all of her favorite people. I am grateful for my team and proud of the work we’ve done in these 70 days.
Yes, a business creates products/widgets/whatever. But really, we are nothing more than a collection of team members [hopefully] pulling in the same direction. Without my team, I don’t have a business. The same study found that 38.2% of people say their company has not even asked them if they are doing okay, and these people are 38% more likely to say their mental health has declined. An even crazier finding is that one in nine (11.3%) employees say their company has not communicated with them at all regarding the coronavirus outbreak.
We are watching some businesses prioritize profit over people, and it is heartbreaking. Don’t do it. We’re better than that.
“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in the moments of comfort, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.” — Martin Luther King, Jr., Civil rights leader and minister