Written by Jeremiah Martin
Published: 08 June 2020
Place plays a massive role in how we think about managing business. The “where” of work has helped us understand, organize, and quickly answer “who’s”, “what’s”, and “when’s” by having everyone physically accessible. Be it a short hallway conversation, or a walk to another department, or the ability to read the room as part of a presentation. The need for social distancing has cut off many of the information streams we rely on to guide the day to day of managing highly engaged teams. That is why, given how much Covid-19 has forced everyone’s way of work to change, we created the Free Organizational Wellbeing Pulse Survey series.
Based on the incredible response we have received from organizations around the world, we have been able learn a lot more about what makes a difference when transitioning to our newly distributed way of working. By working with practitioners, researchers, and academics in the field of OD, Mindset was able to rapidly define the Indicators of a healthy organization during the transition period. We then coupled those with a series of short, pulse surveys to understand the Drivers of organizational wellbeing.
Indicators of Organizational Wellbeing
- A continued sense of connection to the purpose of the organization.
- Feeling supported while adapting to new conditions of work.
- Coping with new challenges in way of working.
- Receiving adequate and open communications from one’s employer.
Using statistical analysis, we were able to determine that not only were the proposed drivers significantly associated with Organizational Wellbeing, but that some of these factors played a relatively large role in helping employees maintain performance, even when they were working from home. Even if you think adapting to Covid-19 is something you have fully handled, changes to your organization are coming, and so understanding what helped organizations this time around, can help you better understand your own organization.
Below is a blueprint that you can use to understand what your workers need to adapt and thrive in an ever-changing business landscape. And you can use it right now to help your organization improve its Covid-19 response strategy, or keep it in your back pocket for a rainy day. We saved the strongest Driver’s for last, so be sure to read to the end.
#10: Having the flexibility to care for loved ones.
The saying “First things first” applies in times of crisis as well as times of calm. Knowing that your employer understands and accommodates caring for your family makes a difference when dealing with the unexpected. Parents of young children will be the first to tell you, much more than the normal operation of the workplace was greatly altered with our response to the pandemic. Many employees were all of a sudden being asked to take on the additional roles of daycare provider and teacher as their children were sent home from school. Keep in mind that for many, “work” doesn’t stop when you get off clock, and having the flexibility to address changes to this at-home-work can make a massive difference.
#9: Being able to focus on one’s work.
Although we often think of focus as a cause of work performance, it is also the outcome of having the appropriate conditions to allow one to focus. Whether one is worried about the effects of Covid-19 on their employment circumstances, or issues like those addressed in #10, having the basic conditions that allow one to focus on their work also helps employees to be confident that they will be able to adapt to the new way of working.
#8: Having a manager that keeps you up to date on what is going on in the organization.
The vast majority of employees have 2 important relationships within the organization. The first being with their organization as a whole, and the second, perhaps more important, being with their supervisor. In many ways, one’s manager is the clearest voice of the organization as a whole. Thus, having a manager that keeps you up to date on how the organization is responding to the new condition is a critical pathway by which the individual maintains knowledge and a sense of connection with the overall organization.
#7 & 6: Being clear on both what is expected of you AND your team during the pandemic.
Changes to one’s working context inevitably comes with changes to both how one is expected to complete certain tasks, and the prioritization of those tasks. Importantly, this goes not only for one’s own work, but also for the work of the rest of one’s team. Often employees are called on to help each other meet collective objectives. Knowing that everyone is on the same page makes a huge difference in their confidence in the organization’s ability to meet new challenges.
#5: Feeling supported by your manager generally.
Feeling valued by your manager is a key signal to employees that they can and should invest their personal effort in helping the organization succeed. Given the new demands that many workers are experiencing, it is critical that employees know that putting in the extra effort to figure things out and adapt, is worth it. Strong support from managers, particularly in times of change, serves as a force multiplier that would be folly to ignore.
#4: Believing that your coworkers and colleagues are supporting EACH OTHER!
In life, believing that everyone is doing their part in meeting collective objectives is a key component of not feeling like one’s kindness or effort is being taken advantage of. This applies within the workplace in just the same way. Knowing that everyone in the organization is indeed “in this together” goes a long way toward securing the individual employee’s belief in the purpose of the organization, even when the circumstance of their work change.
#2 & 3: Confidence that you can reach out to your manager or team to help you out if you are feeling overwhelmed.
A single stick is easily snapped, whereas a bundle can resist much greater forces. Knowing that we have others within the organization who can help out if we have reached our breaking point lets us know we are a member of a bundle, and that we are not a lonely fragile stick. It is important to note that these drivers refer not to whether the employee has been helped out when they are overwhelmed, but if they are confident that they can receive help should they need or want it. In novel, challenging circumstances we stand on that confidence as we work to adapt to the new demands before us.
#1: Trusting in your team to have your best interests at heart.
Our final and strongest driver of Organization Wellbeing is on its face, critical to an effective team regardless of circumstance. Given that we have lost the ability to directly observe one another at work, we rely on mutual trust to know that our team members are not shuffling work on to others and sipping piña coladas from the comfort of their home, or flagrantly ignoring public health recommendations. At the end of the day, all of the strategic preparations on the part of the organization mean little if they do not support workers' trust in their closest colleagues. Now, more than ever, we rely on that trust to help us through uncertain times.