Employers are working hard to support employees who are facing challenges created by the pandemic, whether those challenges involve financial instability or caring for family members–and all of that work can be guided by one simple principle: “Take care.”
That’s the message from Laura Hamill, co-founder of Limeade, an employee experience technology company, whose new children’s book, Take Care, will be published Aug. 8. The work seeks to show how fundamental caring is, and that it’s a message that not only empowers children but also can improve the workplace, says Hamill, who has a PhD in industrial/organizational psychology.
“Recently, my team at the Limeade Institute did research showing that employers can improve retention, inclusion, wellbeing and engagement at work, simply by showing employees they care about them as individuals,” she said during a recent email interview. “It’s such a simple concept — but one that many companies struggle to prioritize, much less put it into practice on a daily basis.”
According to Limeade’s research, employees who feel cared for by their employer are 10 times more likely to recommend their company as a great place to work, nine times more likely to stay at the company for three or more years and twice as likely to be engaged at work. Especially during the uncertainties of the pandemic, employees are essentially in survival mode, Hamill says, dealing with the stress of caring for families and helping their children with remote learning, while still working remotely themselves.
“Whether it’s having our kids or pets interrupt conference calls, or top executives swapping ties for T-shirts, this notion that we can ‘leave it all at the door’ is becoming more and more a figment of the past. These are ideal conditions for employers to insert care into their cultures,” she says. “Employees are hungry for more flexibility, more trust and transparency and a feeling of psychological and physical safety and security.”
Employers can apply the “take care” rule to the workplace by investing in manager support. Throughout the pandemic, managers have had to take on more responsibility, likely adding stress for managers and for their employees. But a lot of wellbeing “maintenance” can happen during manager and employee one-on-one meetings, Hamill says, and can be as simple as managers asking employees, “How are you really doing?” And then, of course, managers need to actually listen and support their employees in their work.
A “take care” approach also could be an essential tool in maintaining high employee engagement and morale, Hamill says, noting that their research found that 94% of employees feel personally engaged at work when they feel cared for by their employer, compared to 46% feel engaged when they who don’t feel cared for by their employer.
Strategies that Hamill suggest to show care include encouraging “free” time for employees to manage outside stressors, offering support and connection to show employees they are cared for, and investing time and resources into financial wellbeing to improve employees’ financial stability.
“When a crisis hits, culture is often the first thing to be put to the test. Now is a great time to do a reset and sit down and examine aspects of culture,” she says.
Four areas can greatly improve office culture, adds Hamill: trust and transparency, communication, social connection and caring about people as human beings. “Be honest about your organization’s challenges and explain why you are making the decisions you are. Now is a time when employees expect to hear from their organization often.
Communication and focusing on employees’ wellbeing can be one way to keep employees engaged and morale up, even while working remotely, she said.
“Leadership should be communicating what your mission and values are, why they matter and how employees are contributing to these elements,” Hamill says. “Create opportunities for formal and informal social connection, whether it’s through employee resource groups or fun things like virtual trivia. Focus on your employees’ whole-person wellbeing and actively support and encourage them to prioritize their wellbeing.”