As 2016 slunk away amid the traditional fireworks and fanfare, many in the West felt they’d finally seen the back of a year that couldn’t go quickly enough. But, quite predictably perhaps, the early signs suggest that the next 12 months are going to be even more tumultuous: for one thing, it’s only now that the true impact of 2016’s biggest bombshells – Brexit and the Trump presidency – can begin to be felt. And it’s hardly as if the world’s politics and economy were on a steady footing to begin with.
This level of change can be daunting, and questions of the future may have a huge impact on the here and now – not least in destabilising people’s efforts to be happy and motivated in their work. And this can cause knock-on problems: having a happy and valued workforce is a crucial part of a company’s success, as it leads to better staff retention, increased productivity and greater innovation.
But there’s good news here too: as those storms keep coming, this is at least one area you can control. So here’s how to keep your employees healthy, engaged and productive as the year takes shape.
1. Be positive and open
And offer reassurance where you can. Most of us can’t do anything about the exchange rate or global politics, so focus on the things you can control – like the quality of your relationships. Get out there and spend half a day each week in a different part of your business, talking to your teams and, crucially, listening to their concerns (and their hopes). It’s never been more important to have an ear to the ground – nor to stand up and be a leader.
2. Know what you’re after
Establish what the organisation is trying to achieve, and ensure everyone knows how they can do their bit. This will give you all a greater rationale for every decision you’ll make in 2017, whether that’s hiring, incentives, acquisitions, sales strategy or product launches. This will, of course, help eliminate uncertainty, but remember too that people like to win: clear goals will give them the perfect bar against which to measure how they do.
3. Encourage wellbeing
If you’re already offering free eye tests or cycle to work schemes, shout about them. Then ask yourself whether you could be doing more – whether that’s getting a group deal at the local gym, or bringing in a nutritionist to highlight the dangers of carb crashes. Better still: find people in your team who know this stuff already and reward them for teaching others. Stock up on healthy treats, such as fresh fruit, nuts and granola bars, and maybe even shell out on a blender for the kitchen. And how about encouraging flexible working? This can help people see more of their families, while often working more efficiently too.
4. Spruce up the gaff
Small improvements to the workplace can make a massive difference to wellbeing. You should of course make sure everything in the office is well maintained, but safety is just the beginning. Make sure noise levels and temperature are comfy, add touches like greenery and cushions, and create open spaces that encourage people to speak to each other face-to-face. Maybe even offer standing desks: a couple of hours of upright work every day can help re-energise people.
5. Rethink team building
Costly and time-consuming away days aren’t the only way to boost morale. You could abandon the conference room and hold your regular pow-wows as an outdoor walking meeting instead. How about introducing yoga, Pilates, aerobics or meditation sessions for people to do together? Or host healthy potlucks – where each month a different member of the team prepares a hearty dish at home, and everyone eats it together.
6. Celebrate success
When the future is uncertain it becomes even more important to celebrate the wins – with a team dinner after work, a free breakfast on Mondays, or an outing. Acknowledge successes at the start of your team meetings, and encourage people to reflect on something great that someone else in the team did. Maybe even allow people to select an inspiring colleague for a bonus each month. And why stop at success? Start an award for employees who are bold enough to take risks – even if they failed.
Find out more from IOSH here