Wellbeing at work: how managers can help their teams manage stress

Written by: Erika Khanna | Illustrated by: Clément Lavedan
Published on November 26, 2020 | Reading time: 8m

Working during a pandemic has increased the intrigue around how managers and their teams are approaching the topic of workplace wellbeing. After all, it’s no secret that there’s a strong correlation between teams who prioritize their emotional, physical and mental health, and impactful work that reaches performance metrics. Ultimately it boils down to learning the signs that your team needs to emphasize their wellbeing, how to support them and what types of methods can be applied. 

In fact 39% of Officevibe users have expressed that their work is taking a negative toll on their work related stress level.  

It’s never too late to do something good for yourself, and for your team. With the end of the year fast approaching, we’re exploring: what it means for managers to prioritize employee wellbeing, and how to do so while also improving employee engagement.

Get through difficult workplace conversations by building your emotional intelligence.

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Understand the main causes of stress and overwhelm

Our own team experienced indications of high stress this past spring with the onset of remote work becoming the norm. Without skipping a beat, this prompted us to pivot into action. 

workplace wellbeing chart

Our senior leadership team decided it was paramount for us to walk the talk and use Officevibe’s pulse surveys to check-in with our team. Using the data we gathered it became clear that there were several key contributors directly linked to low employee engagement and consequently, employee wellbeing. 

Here’s how we got to the bottom of stress on our teams: 

  1. Listen and understand: Properly understand the situation and identify which factors are contributing to employee stress. (We used our Custom Poll templates dedicated to wellness to easily survey our teams).
  2. Offer visibility on results: Share the results with everyone to provide a sense of transparency. It’s important for us to have each employee give their input on concrete action items. 
  3. Make action planning collaborative: Brainstorm on action items as a team, allowing each employee to contribute part of the solution gives everyone a voice. In our case, each one of us had access to a shared Miro board. Here, all the main topics and ideas from the Custom Poll were gathered. Each employee could then participate by owning their own schedule, comment, and discuss specific ideas within the board.
  4. Give employees a say in the next steps: Let every employee vote on the action items they feel would most benefit the stress and wellness levels of the company.
  5. Commit to next steps: Results of the vote demonstrated concrete areas where we could concentrate our efforts and pull together as a team. We agreed to action out each of these. This included:
  • A time management workshop to amplify mental wellbeing
  • Employee fitness challenge 
  • A team-based company virtual event (we chose a murder mystery party)
  • A commitment to achieve strategic objectives
  • Keep track of progress: Measure the change you implement. You can do this with our simple Officevibe Pulse Surveys that track metrics like “Wellness”

As we put our people-first approach into action, we were able to quickly turn things around. We came up with solutions that fit our needs and increased workplace wellbeing. Taking the time to listen to employees via our pulse surveys, then following up with deeper and more meaningful discussions in 1-on-1s let them know that we support each other. 

❤️ Check out our full team story here!

The TLDR on learning about the state of your team’s wellbeing: 

  • Identify the situation at hand and show initiative around prioritizing the wellbeing of you and your team.
  • Be open minded and share results to further understand how you can collectively shift perspectives and make things better.
  • Collaborate in a brainstorm session and explore key areas that will benefit your team’s physical and mental health.
  • Collectively commit to action items, making them habitual, fun, and cost effective 

Discover how to collaborate with teams to build a workplace wellbeing program

Our recent Officevibe survey results found that 22% of employees feel as though their work is taking a toll on their personal life. When we take a closer look, it’s noticeable how remote work plays an important role in this data. After all, we are no longer working from home, rather, living at work. Societal norms condition us to think that taking care of our wellbeing is a luxury and that work-related stress is “normal.” Emotional Intelligence experts at Roche Martin indicated that promoting wellbeing within teams increases productivity and motivation, builds morale and decreases work-related stress. Earlier, we brought visibility to the main causes of employee overwhelm and stress, now it’s time for the fun part: finding applicable solutions as a team to make things better. 

Get through difficult workplace conversations by building your emotional intelligence.

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Your team is now aware that you’ve gathered the data and brought attention towards their health and wellbeing. What they don’t know yet, is that they too can participate in building towards a solution. As their manager, it’s not up to you to solve all the problems your team might be facing. Rather, it’s up to you to facilitate solutions, provide a thoughtful wellbeing strategy and ultimately, create a healthy workplace. In doing so, you’re intentionally giving your team the space to prioritize their wellness.  

  1. Lead by example: Deconstruct preconceived stigmas around keeping emotions to themselves and encourage them to talk about how they feel. Start by being vulnerable yourself about what has been most stressful for you. 
  2. Brainstorm together: Facilitate a brainstorming session with remote collaboration tools (like Miro). Express ideal states of wellbeing and how that is defined by the team.
  3. Get creative: Let them know that nothing is off the table, and that being creative can help them find new ways of achieving a state of wellbeing for a more balanced approach to their day-to-day. 
  4. Experiment with what works, then iterate: Set the baseline that it’s okay if you don’t get it right on the first try. Create a guiding north star of what is the best possible outcome, and break this down into smaller achievable wellbeing initiatives to test over time. 
  5. Keep it human: Our poll results demonstrate that 16% of users feel as though someone would not say or do something helpful if they noticed they were in a state of distress.  Taking time to intentionally connect with one another not only helps for accountability, it builds connection, trust and psychological safety.

We all want to see each other succeed, luckily there are several ways to let teams know that you value their overall health and find ways to encourage them towards a more balanced life. 

The TLDR on finding solutions to team stress  

  • Your team’s wellbeing is urgent: prioritize collaborative brainstorm sessions and explore existing sentiments, resources that are available to help team members and healthy habits to integrate.
  • Try it out for size: be flexible in your experimentation of what works and what doesn’t work and encourage teams to share feedback.
  • Encourage connections with team members: create accountability buddies.

Build workplace wellbeing habits that last & drive continuous performance 

We’ve learned the root causes and concerns around employee isolation, overwhelm and stress and how this can be amplified in a remote environment. We also took a look at how we can create a shift in perspective that works for teams. It’s time to understand how to keep the focus on wellbeing as a priority and make that a long lasting value. 

We observed how 66% of Officevibe users feel as though their company offers the support they need to deal with work-related stress. It’s no wonder that those who feel this level of support have seen a boost in engagement and productivity. Yet, wellbeing is not a one-stop- shop, nor is it one-size-fits-all, and this perspective needs to be baked into everyday habits and expectations.

Employees need support

During times of crisis or uncertainty, employees crave the following: 

Stability: We tend to cling on to sensations of stability in times of high instability. But, how can a manager promise stability during times of change and flux? For example, keep your 1-on-1 meetings consistent so employees know they always have a touchpoint with their manager coming up. 

Clarity and visibility: Over communicate and clarify expectations often. Offer visibility to your team as often as possible on shifts in strategy or changes in the business, explaining how it affects them. Often the unknown can be the most stressful of all, so keep your team in the loop. 

Flexibility: Learn what flexibility means to your team, and how you can help facilitate their wellbeing by being open about meeting schedules, deadlines, and big projects. Find a system that adheres to healthy habits and fosters creativity, growth and development. 

Appreciation: Celebrate small wins. Recognize employees who offer a helping hand to others who might be struggling with stress, amplifying that we are all in this together. 

The TLDR on making wellbeing habitual: 

  • Foster a sense of stability with your team’s day to day 
  • Define flexibility and stick to that as a team principal  
  • Encourage healthy habits outside of work: daily walks, accountability groups, gratitude lists, etc 
  • Build recognition and trust within your team 

Keeping our wellbeing at the heart of what we do allows our team to bring a human approach to our teams and to our projects. When we prioritize our health, we feel supported, understand the resources available to us and we know we can rely on our team mates. These aspects are not ‘soft skills’ they are fundamental to our daily conversations, habits and have proven to have massive impacts on companies who have a positive culture. Remember that it doesn’t have to be complex, simplicity is key, all it takes is someone to listen and lead.

Get through difficult workplace conversations by building your emotional intelligence.

Image of the emotional intelligence guide